As part of #WinterRead2020, we asked our sponsor Penguin Random House to reach out to some of their authors and ask what they are reading this #WinterRead2020. Torrey Maldonado, the author of the critically acclaimed “Tight” and “Secret Saturdays,” was the first to respond. Here’s what he said:
I’m a reluctant reader and always have been. Now you may ask, “How can a celebrated teacher and published author say he’s still a reluctant reader?” My reply? I’m a reluctant reader because I’m reluctant to read what doesn’t engage me like my childhood superhero comics did. It was those that eventually led me to chapter books. So, my reading goals start with me using a lens that the world of comics gave me to spot fast-paced, gripping, and unputdownable books.
As a boy, I was a fan of many superheroes, including Daredevil. That comic has since become a Netflix show, and recently I was enjoying an episode when a reporter on it told her boss she had “writer’s block.” I liked his advice because it was my goal each time I worked on writing Tight, which NPR and The Washington Post named a Best Book. That advice guides me when I build my library and write. First, the reporter’s boss said writing has to offer something different and new. Next, it should tell a story only that author can write and shouldn’t pull any punches. His next tip makes me smile because it’s about my hometown. He said New Yorkers think we’ve seen it all (ha! True!) and he said great writing surprises even the most “know-it-all” New Yorkers.
I’ve taught middle school for twenty years in Brooklyn, where I was born and raised, so I’ve seen a lot. My students and I like books that reflect our experiences. With Tight, I really tried to follow the boss’s advice to share truths people don’t generally know. Bryan is a younger me and similar to many of my students. A tween with an unexpected softer side who’s expected to be macho, he loves reading and hanging with his mom. My new novel, What Lane?, explores what it’s like to be a mixed kid who feels like he’s living in two different worlds with two different sets of rules. All of my books help kids navigate their complex situations, confront stereotypes, and find allies. I love that kids find them eye-opening and fun to read, and feel inspired by them to question society, privilege, and what makes a hero.
For this year’s Winter Reading Challenge, I plan to read books that engage from an author’s unique perspective. Books that show the world from the eyes of kids whose stories haven’t historically been portrayed. Books that share the warmth, hearts, and minds of Black, Latino, and mixed boys. Reading that moves tweens the way their favorite comics, shows, and movies do is what hooked me on books and is what I want — what my students would say is “off the hook” good.
Torrey Maldonado, the author of the critically acclaimed Tight and Secret Saturdays, has taught in Brooklyn, New York, for twenty years, where he was born and raised. His latest novel, What Lane? will be released on April 14, 2020. Learn more at torreymaldonado.com. Follow him: @torreymaldonado #torreymaldonado