Lanre Akinsiku, a lecturer in English at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, was honored by having two of this books selected for inclusion on the best books of the year for children and young adults by the New York Public Library. The books Justin and Janae are selections from Akinsiku’s four-book “Blacktop” series published by Grosset & Dunlap. The books explore the lives of four teenagers who meet on an outdoor basketball court in Oakland, California.
Akinsiku, grew up in Oakland, the son of Nigerian immigrants. He wrote the Blacktop series under the pen name of LJ Alonge. He is the first student in the history of master of fine arts degree program in creative writing at Cornell University to have at least three books published before completing his degree.
Akinsiku said “there’s such a dearth of stories about kids of color getting to be human and alive in their own world. I know growing up I didn’t see a lot of those stories. Basketball is the frame, the way all of their stories intersect, but the books are mainly about the excitement, anxiety and strangeness that come with growing up.”