Dwayne Reed wants to redefine the way people think and talk about the hood. His new picture book, All Good in the Hood, is out now and it tackles Juneteenth in a whole new and positive way.
Dwayne grew up in Chicago, where the story of the book is based. Now he works as an educator in the same neighborhoods he grew up in, and he’s raising his family there too. (That’s his adorable son modeling the book below!) Dwayne says Juneteenth was never something that was talked about when he was growing up, and he hopes this book helps change that so it’s a date all kids can learn about and celebrate.
Read our Q&A with Dwayne below, which includes his advice for aspiring writers. By the way, if you think Dwayne looks or sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen his viral singing videos or have even seen him in some WeAreTeachers videos. You can check out his website here.
Why is it important to have a book that talks about Juneteenth?
I didn’t know what Juneteenth was until my early 20s. So as a black man in America, I felt bamboozled when I learned what it was. Like why did no one tell me about this? This was something I should’ve been made aware of. Juneteenth was a good thing. It was positive news, and now I want to share that good news with others.
Is there any part of the book that is related to your own life or childhood?
Yes. I’m a big brother, just like the character in the book. Throughout my childhood, I was the one walking my brother through things and trying to put on a brave face even when I was scared. This book shows a brother overcoming his fears, just like I did when I was younger.
Also, I live in and grew up in the city of Chicago. You’ll see this in the skyline of the city and in the houses in the pictures. They look just like the housing on the West Side of Chicago. The entire book is taken from my life, my childhood, and the lives of my current scholars.
How do you hope this book helps people redefine how they talk about “the hood”?
The hood has so many beautiful and brilliant pieces to it. It has life-giving pieces and people. I hope a book like this will help break stereotypes and become a true narrative about great people and neighborhoods.
How can teachers use this book in their classrooms?
I hope teachers will use this book to show that it’s the people who make a neighborhood good. Fear, which is a common theme in the book, is universal. It’s something teachers can talk to all kids about. Also, we need to celebrate life and Juneteenth. Teachers can use this book to talk about brotherhood, community, celebration, and so much more.
How was it working with the illustrator on this book?
The illustrator is Gladys Jose. (Check out her website here.) She really got what I was trying to do, and her illustrations are so fun. I would actually take photos of real-life things and places in Chicago to send to her. I’d take photos of a dog or a basketball hoop in the middle of the street or the houses. She took all of that and brought the hood to life in the book.
Do you have any tips for other teachers aspiring to write a book?
Write the story you want to write. Tell the story you want to tell. Sometimes we feel pressured to tell the story we think other people want. But it’s always better when we tell the story inside of us.
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Plus, check out this article on black children’s book authors we love.