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Youth Programs

Ross Gay Visits with High School Students for Everybody Reads Events

Ross Gay visited with hundreds of high school students over Zoom on Wednesday, April 7th and Thursday, April 8th for Multnomah County Library’s 2021 Everybody Reads author visits. Gay answered student questions about The Book of Delights, his skateboarding and basketball skills, and what inspires him to find delight in the everyday.

The Wednesday event took place with 179 attendees from Woodburn’s WEBSS high school on a day off from school! Over a dozen students asked Gay questions. Aly, the student introducing Gay, described him as a “motivational, happy and caring person. His work matters in many different ways. Delight shows up in my own life in so many ways.”

A student asking Ross Gay a question

One student, Janice, asked Gay what happiness means to him.

“Happiness and joy comes from trying to care for other people,” Gay said. “The happiest moments of my life are when I’m in deep collaboration and care. When I’m joining something that’s bigger than me and more important than me.”

A student talking with Ross Gay at the first author visit

Genesis, a student at Woodburn WEBBS high school, asked Gay, “Does it ever get difficult? Do you ever want to give up?” 

“I like writing,” Gay said. “It’s like having fun to me. But I can also feel profound emotional exhaustion and sorrow and sadness. I have felt that. I have been lucky and blessed, in the face of crisis and sorrow, and had people reach out to me and take care of me…And I have had real serious difficulty being okay. And you know, that happens. I just want to acknowledge that I have experienced that. And have been lucky and have been lucky because I’ve been held up by other people.”

The Thursday afternoon Ross Gay author visit with Reynolds, Grant, and Reynolds Learning Academy had over 120 participants. One student asked if being an athlete helped Gay write, and asked about his favorite basketball team and player, citing his own favorites as the Blazers and Damien Lillard.

“Yeah, Damien Lillard’s amazing,” Gay said. “Favorite team? I keep up with the Sixers, because that’s where I’m from. There’s something about attention I learned about as an athlete, paying attention to minute things. I also think frankly although we weren’t necessarily calling it this, that there are practices of care in sport, things that I want to elevate — that sports are grounds for care. Playing on a team, playing with other people. Playing games with (we say against)– they’re laboratories of care and beauty. Even though no one said it like that to me, that’s something you can learn from basketball or football.”

Ross Gay listens to a question from a student

Ross Gay thanked students for their “beautiful and amazing questions. That’s inspiration, you know? That was really inspiring to have that conversation.”

He concluded with this piece of writing advice, “Write about the stuff that you love, that shreds your heart with love.”

One student, Kai, echoed Gay’s sentiment. “When you find joy in the things you do, it stops being work.”

Ross Gay with educators, Literary Arts staff, and Multnomah County library staff ahead of students’ arrival

Thanks to our partner for the Woodburn WEBSS author visit, Charles Sanderson. Thanks to our partners for the Grant, Reynolds HS, and Reynolds Learning Academy author visit, Paige Battle, Principal James McGee, Teresa Brandt, Principal Wade Bakley. Maureen Geraghty, and Principal Aaron Ferguson. Special thanks to Olivia Jones-Hall for her work coordinating both visits.

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