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Profile of 2015 Newbery Medal winner Kwame Alexander

alexander_giovanni

I laugh with my students…I hope never at…when
they tell me they are having Writer’s Block…No Such
Thing…I declare…that’s only a sign…of not enough
knowledge…go do your research…and to me that’s the
end…yet…I am having Writer’s Block…because I want
so much…to write the perfect introduction…to one of
the nicest young men I know

Do I start twenty something years ago…when he walked
into my classroom…with an anxious smile saying…I
Want To Be A Writer? My job is not…to teach you to
write…I shared with the class…but to not get in the way
of your writing…My job is to remind you…to have faith
in yourself…and find your voice

Kwame learned maybe only one thing…from me…The
Answer Is Yes…Yes to Juanita Britton (Queen Mother
Nana Botwe Adobea II) who asked him to go to her village
of Konko, in Ghana, to build a library…Yes to small
cities and Book Festivals around the country who needed
a writing friend…Yes to starting his own Book Festival…
His own publishing company…His own line of greeting
cards and posters…Yes to his own idea of empowering
young writers by helping them publish a Book-in-a-
Day…Yes to the excitement of life…to writing on the
road…to growing taller and stronger while trusting that
vision and strength…and every time he said Yes we all
said Yes to him…Family and Community say Yes…A
Poem is like an orange you peel…bit by bit…and enjoy
the juiciest part that drips on you…Yes to interviews…
Yes to wonderful anthologies…and Yes to his own voice
that created the incomparable The Crossover

I cry at many things…in my old age…but tears of joy
trickled down…when I was hospitalized recently…I
awoke after two days to find Kwame sitting across from
me…What are you doing here?…You have work to do…I
said…It’s the Writer’s time of year…I heard you were
sick…he replied…My Literary Son at my side…Nikki…I
won The Newbery Award…You have to get well…and
come to San Francisco

No matter where I am…I’ll be there…Singing the Praises
of a writer…who listens to Yes…who will climb that
ladder to higher and higher spaces…as he CrossesOver all
obstacles…to share his warm and loving…vision

Nikki Giovanni
Poet/Teacher

Kwame Alexander is the winner of the 2015 Newbery Medal for The Crossover (Houghton). From the July/August 2015 Special Awards Issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more speeches, profiles, and articles click the tag ala 2015.

Nikki Giovanni About Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni’s latest book is Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid (Morrow/Harper).

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