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PSC Alum Publishes Young Adult Series, Blacktop!

Lanre Akinsiku

We’re excited to share that Public Service Center alum, Lanre Akinsiku, class of 2010, B.A. in international political economy, recently released a new series of Young Adult books under the pen name LJ Alonge. The series follows the adventures of East Bay teenagers on and off the basketball court. Berkeley United in Literacy Development (BUILD), a PSC literacy mentoring program, took advantage of the alumni connection to bring the series to life for local youth. In August, BUILD mentors at Young Adult Project, a South Berkeley community center, used the books as a starting point for a dialogue on basketball, writing, and life at Cal. Ma’ane Mosley, a Cal Women’s Basketball guard and intended philosophy major, joined the BUILD mentors and they Skyped Lanre in from New York, where he had just finished teaching creative writing at Cornell University.

Participating youth appreciated the shifting perspectives from book to book which allows them to get to know different characters’ thoughts. Each book is named for its lead character, which to date includes Justin, Janae, and Frank (with Toni coming soon). As Lanre explains, “One of the things I really wanted to do with this series is present kids of color in complex ways. A lot of Young Adult lit presents us as sidekicks or one-dimensional characters and I wanted my books to actively push against that.” You can find out more or buy the books online. Through his books, Lanre’s contributions to social justice are reaching far beyond his time with the Public Service Center, and far beyond the city limits of Berkeley.

Lanre Akinsiku, Class of 2010, B.A. in International Political Economy, Hometown: Union City