Kwame Alexander and Solo

Though the title is Solo, this book was not created in isolation. Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess worked together to craft the poetry. In addition, Randy Preston added his musical talent in the creation of the songs that are included in the text. The songs may also be heard on the audio version of the book.

Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess during the Q & A session.

Last month, Alexander, Hess, and Preston shared about their creative journey and also read and sang portions of the book at a launch party in Chicago. When asked about how they worked on the poetry together, Alexander described a somewhat messy process. At times they alternated scenes, but not always. If Alexander was having trouble with a metaphor, Hess might help. Of course, Alexander added, “All the good poems in the book, I wrote.” Hess nodded and responded, “True.” One truth is there is no easy way to tease out who provided which words. When reading the poems, the authors voices are indistinguishable. The text appears seamless.

Randy Preston laughs as Kwame Alexander shares both the poetry in Solo and some of his own humorous family stories.

Music is a huge part of this book. Hess and Alexander they knew they wanted to include a lot of songs that defined their generation. Hess is a Guns N’ Roses and Metallica fan while Alexander’s taste runs more towards 80’s classic soft rock. They were able to weave music references throughout the book, but they wanted original music too. Preston played a part in creating that music. One evening in Milwaukee, Preston and Alexander were together and started brainstorming music. That night they worked on music to accompany some of Alexander’s previous books and over time they moved on to pieces for Solo.

When talking to Randy after the presentation, we discussed the power of having music tied to literature. Some readers may be drawn into books by the music even when they aren’t typically thrilled about reading. Randy noted that, “music is an equalizer.” He’s excited about the opportunities to go beyond traditional pages of books. With the audiobook, Solo goes well beyond the written word. The audiobook is narrated by Alexander and is accompanied by the original music. I’ve read and enjoyed the ARC, but after hearing an excerpt of the audiobook, I believe the audio will be an experience not to be missed.

Music is a key part of Solo. I asked Kwame how music has shaped his life. “It’s been a soundtrack through every stage of life. Music can make people feel better about themselves. I want people to feel better – that’s why I write.”

In addition to music, Solo is a book that explores what it means to be a family. Alexander shared that family is the most important thing in life.”It’s what we rely on and they encourage us. Family is something to be treasured, honored, and respected.”

Solo will be available on July 25th. My full review of the book may be found here.

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