Lanre Akinsiku started writing stories four years ago, because “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,” said Akinsiku. In the past four years, he has finished his MFA at Cornell University, published three books (almost four), and was honored by the New York Public Library’s selection of two of his books for inclusion on its annual list of best books for children and young adults. Akinsiku, who writes under the name LJ Alonge, is the first student in the history of Cornell’s MFA writing program to have three books published before completing the program.
After receiving his B.A. in international political economy from the University of California, Berkeley, Akinsiku spent several years working in political consulting. He gave that up to become a freelance travel writer before entering the MFA program at Cornell. Penguin editors approached him after his first year of graduate school to write a series for young adults. What resulted is Akinsiku’s Blacktop series, a collection of four books that explore topics including racism, relationships between police and teens of color, and gentrification, through the voices of teenagers with a shared love for basketball. To learn more about Lanre and his work, visit the Cornell University website.
**Photo credit: Lindsay France/University Photography
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