Frequently Asked Questions

What’s your favorite color?

Used to be blue but now it’s most of the time, green.  I like earth tones more than pastels and I love stripes!

What’s your favorite food?


What foods don’t you like?

Avocado, mushrooms, artichokes, raspberries, papaya, meat, brussel sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, oatmeal, mussels, sea bass,… This list is actually much longer but I’ll stop here.

Do you have brothers and sisters?

I have an older brother named Hope, and an older sister, Odella, and a younger brother, Roman.  I’m the only one in my family with a name you’ve really heard before.  Except the name “Hope” but it’s usually given to a girl.  My grandfather’s name was Hope.  His wife, my paternal grandma, was named Grace.  I think that’s pretty cool.

Even though I’m five feet ten inches tall, I’m the shortest person in my family.

Where were you born?

Columbus, Ohio but I spent my early life in Greenville, South Carolina. We moved to Brooklyn when I was about seven.

When were you born?

February 12th.

What was your favorite subject in school?

I loved English and anything where we got to do writing. I was terrible at math and science. I loved gym and Spanish and anything that allowed us to dance or jump around. I wasn’t a big fan of sitting still too long unless I was reading. I always read the same books again and again.

What are/were some of your favorite books?

As a kid, I loved anything by Virginia Hamilton or Judy Blume. I also loved The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde and The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson. Oh—and Stevie by Jon Steptoe. These days, I feel like my favorites list grows and grows. A sampling of the authors and illustrators I love: Chris Rascka, Chris Lynch, Chris Myers—and not because they all have the same name! I also love, An Na, Karen Hesse, Kashmira Sheth, Mildred Taylor, James Baldwin, Anne Lamott, Rosa Guy, Christopher Paul Curtis, Walter Dean Myers, Hope Anita Smith, Carson McCullers, Raymond Carver, Audre Lorde… I could go on and on.

Do you have any pets?

We have a dog named Toffee and a cat named Fred.

Why do you love writing so much?

Because it makes me happy. Even when the words are slow in coming and the story seems all lopsided, writing keeps me happy.

Where have you traveled?

I’ve been to all fifty states and met some really cool young people in all of them. I’ve been to England, Brazil, France, Germany, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Belize, Virgin Gorda and Mexico. And probably a couple of other places I don’t remember right now.

What languages do you speak?

Mostly English but I also know Spanish and a good bit of American Sign Language. If I am desperate, I can find a bathroom in French and German.

What are some of the other languages your books are published in?

Italian, Dutch, Tagalog, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Mandarin, Turkish, and a few others I don’t remember right now.

Is writing hard?

Yes. Anything you do that you want to do well can be difficult at times. Revising is hard. Thinking of new things to write about is hard. And the difficulty makes it that much more rewarding.

Are any of your books based on your life?

The only ones that have some autobiographical content are Brown Girl Dreaming, Visiting Day, Sweet, Sweet Memory, Show Way and all the Maizon books.

Do you ever get Writer’s Block?

Nope. I don’t believe there is any such thing as Writer’s Block. I think it’s just your mind telling you that the thing you’re writing isn’t the thing you really want to be writing. If this happens to me, I start writing something else.

Do you have any kids?

I have a daughter named Toshi (she loves acrobatics, soccer and singing).  She takes Suzuki piano lessons (which she doesn’t love.) and a son named Jackson-Leroi. He loves our dog, Toffee, books, Puss In Boots and singing. Toshi was named after her Godmom, Toshi Reagon who is a really cool singer. Jackson-Leroi claims he wrote all of my books. They both make me laugh a lot.

What music do you listen to?

Here are some of the people on my computer: Toshi Reagon, Joni Mitchell, Kanye West, Talib Kweli, Bruce Springstein, Black Eyed Peas, Nas, the Indigo Girls, ani difranco, Eminem, Lauren Hill, Ke$ha,  and the whole Free To Be You and Me soundtrack.

How many books do you work on at one time?

I’m usually working on two or three books at once. When I get bored with one, or get stuck, I go on to the other one.

Where do you write?

I have a writing room in my house in Brooklyn. Sometimes, I sit on the stoop or write at Prospect Park. Sometimes, if an idea starts coming, I just write wherever I am and on whatever I have.

Of all the books you’ve written, do you have a favorite?

Nope. I like each of them for different reasons. Sometimes, long after I’ve finished a book, I’m still thinking about the people in them.

If you couldn’t write, what would you do?

Play for the NBA—Try to make those Knicks a winning team!

Do you think you’ll ever stop writing?

When I stop breathing.

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