On Tuesday morning, DC novelist Jason Reynolds woke up feeling like he needed to do something for his community. During a typical year, he’d spend Giving Tuesday and Small Business Saturday doing outreach like signing books at local bookstores or attending community events. This year, given the pandemic, he took to Twitter and tapped out the following:
And as soon as @Loyaltybooks and @eastcitybooks open tomorrow, I’ll make sure they’re there, too. I would suggest calling each store to see what they have before showing up. But they all have them, and they’re now, ALL free.
— Jason Reynolds (@JasonReynolds83) December 1, 2020
Now, only around 35 of Reynolds’ books remain in DC’s indie bookstores—there had over 325 copies on Monday. A Politics & Prose employee said the high demand for Reynold’s titles forced the bookstore to turn away some adults in order to save books for children (Reynolds’ advised on Twitter to “not be greedy” and prioritize kids getting his books).
An award-winning YA fiction author, Reynolds’ stories take on the subject of what it’s like to grow up Black in America. He tackles tough subjects like troubled families and violence. The Oxon Hill native is a two-time National Book Award finalist, a Newbery honoree, and the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
Reynolds says he didn’t put much thought into the generous gesture, and that he figured buying the books and letting people have them for free was a win-win situation for both bookstores and local children. He’s enjoyed seeing pictures of kids with new copies of books like Long Way Down and Ghost, and he’s had fans reach out to him on Twitter to share their excitement about finally getting their hands on one of his novels.
The pandemic has been tough for DC’s indie book stores, which generally draw in customers with their unique browsing environments and in-store events. While Reynolds recognizes that ordering books through Amazon is speedy and easy, he notes that all DC’s local bookstores have some form of phone or online ordering system, and many offer curbside pickup.
“Be patient,” Reynolds says. “We’re used to the convenience of [Amazon]. But sometimes it’s important that we inconvenience ourselves to ensure that our institutions remain.”