Daniel José Older

NYT Bestselling Young Adult Author
International Latino Book Award

Readings & Lecture Topics

  • Urban Fantasy
  • Shape Your Shadow
  • The Story Of Power And The Power Of Story
  • Fundamentals of Storycraft
  • An Evening with Daniel José Older

“This is the beauty and magic of Older’s writing—he leaves us openmouthed and speechless, asking “What just happened to me?!” —Jacqueline Woodson

“Older excels at crafting teen dialogue that feels authentic, and props to everyone involved for not othering the Spanish language.” —Kirkus Review

Daniel José Older is the New York Times bestselling author of the Young Adult series the Shadowshaper Cypher (Scholastic) and its sequel, Shadowfall (Fall 2017); the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series including Salsa Nocturna: Stories (Penguin); and the upcoming Middle Grade sci-fi adventure Flood City (Scholastic). He won the International Latino Book Award for Shadowshaper. Shadowshaper was also named one of Esquire’s 80 Books Every Person Should Read, and has been optioned for a feature film by Tony-award winning actress Anika Noni Rose. Older has been nominated for the Kirkus Prize, the Mythopoeic Award, the Locus Award, the Andre Norton Award, and the World Fantasy Award. He is a frequent contributor to The Guardian, where he writes on social justice, diversity, and gentrification.

About Shadowshaper, The New York Times Book Review writes: “In the best urban fantasy, the city is not just a backdrop, but functions as a character in its own right, offering up parallels between personal histories and histories of place. That is certainly true in Daniel José Older’s magnificent Shadowshaper, which gives us a Brooklyn that is vital, authentic and under attack.” And NPR praises it thus: “This is a book full of music and dancing, flavors and colors and sound. Women love and support each other, brothers rescue sisters who rescue boyfriends, and the whole is an uplifting, beautiful story with the kinds of creepy twists and turns that remind you of playing hide and seek in graveyards as a kid. It’s joyful and assertive and proud, and makes me want to read everything else of Older’s, for more of these voices, connections and lives.”

Salsa Nocturna: Stories is a collection of 13 linked supernatural noir stories set in NY, with what Publishers Weekly calls a “delicate mix of horror and humor” (PW). Or in the words of Locus Award-winning author N. K. Jemisin, “These are stories of the magic in cities, of the life in death, of the hope that even the most cynical of people still feel deep down.”

For 10 years, Older worked as an EMT in Brooklyn, and he blogged each day about what he’d witnessed the night before: tragedy and joy, blood and bandages, dead people and living people—and people who hovered somewhere in between, their fates as yet undecided. In an interview with Bookpage, Older credits his work as an EMT as the inspiration for his writing career, saying, “It’s part of how I became a writer. It’s the roots of my fiction. It helped me just tell the f**king story. That became my motto as I went on to become a writer.”

Older is also a passionate advocate for representation in literature, particularly for children. In a Rumpus interview, Older remarked, “This issue of representation is really life or death, especially when we’re talking about children, like when I look at the dearth of representation in children’s literature. It makes me so sad, because I think about how kids of color have to grow up with this idea that the image of divinity and heroism is not them. And what does that mean? What does that mean for me, as a young Latino, trying to find people who look like me, or even were like me?”

He has facilitated workshops on music and anti-oppression organizing at public schools, religious houses, universities, and prisons. He offers multiple workshops on storycraft, as well as a series of workshops entitled, Shape Your Shadow, which engages diversity and literature in a much needed conversation: “Moving into a new era of a more equitable book world means strategizing new ways to change the demographics of writing and publishing, and lifting up voices that haven’t been heard enough.” In The Story Of Power And The Power Of Story he helps students break open the rules and preconceived notions about gender and race, tracing their affect on daily lives back to the cultural, institutional dynamics that created them. Using what he calls “power maps” with students he explores tools for incorporating the analytics of oppression and resistance into the narrative arts.

A composer as well as a writer, Older lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

Daniel José Older’s Website

Daniel José Older is the New York Times bestselling author of the Young Adult series the Shadowshaper Cypher (Scholastic), the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series (Penguin), and the upcoming Middle Grade sci-fi adventure Flood City (Scholastic). He won the International Latino Book Award and has been nominated for the Kirkus Prize, the Mythopoeic Award, the Locus Award, the Andre Norton Award, and the World Fantasy Award. Shadowshaper was named one of Esquire’s 80 Books Every Person Should Read. His journalism on social justice, diversity, and gentrification appears regularly in The Guardian. A former EMT, Older writes and composes music in Brooklyn. He has facilitated workshops on music and anti-oppression organizing at public schools, religious houses, universities, and prisons.

The stunning sequel to the New York Times bestseller Shadowshaper is daring, dazzling, defiant. Sierra and her friends love their new lives as shadowshapers, making art and creating change with the spirits of Brooklyn. Then Sierra receives a strange card depicting a beast called the Hound of Light — an image from the enigmatic, influential Deck of Worlds. The shadowshapers know their next battle has arrived. Thrust into an ancient struggle with enemies old and new, Sierra and Shadowhouse are determined to win. Revolution is brewing in the real world as well, as the shadowshapers lead the fight against systems that oppress their community. To protect her family and friends in every sphere, Sierra must take down the Hound and master the Deck of Worlds . . . or risk losing them all.


“Shadowshaper was a book I couldn’t put down. At a time when so many are feeling powerless, Sierra Santiago is a young Afro-Latina heroine who finds her power within herself. Through a strong spiritual connection to her ancestors, the discovery of the magic living in her art, and with the help of some amazing friends, she saves her family, and her Brooklyn neighborhood from certain destruction. A face and culture we rarely see on screen; she is the heroine we’ve been searching for, only to find she lives right next door.” – Anika Noni Rose

“This story about ancestors, ghosts, power, and community has art and music at its core; Sierra’s drawing and painting turn out to be tools for spirit work. Sierra’s Puerto Rican with African and Taíno ancestors; her community is black and brown, young and old, Latin and Caribbean and American. Sometimes funny and sometimes striking, Older’s comfortable prose seamlessly blends English and Spanish. Warm, strong, vernacular, dynamic—a must.” – Kirkus, Starred Review

Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears… Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on. With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one — and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family’s past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come. Full of a joyful, defiant spirit and writing as luscious as a Brooklyn summer night, Shadowshaper introduces a heroine and magic unlike anything else in fantasy fiction, and marks the YA debut of a bold new voice.

A 300 year-old story collector enlists the help of the computer hacker next door to save her dying sister. A half-resurrected cleanup man for Death’s sprawling bureaucracy faces a phantom pachyderm, doll-collecting sorceresses and his own ghoulish bosses. Gordo, the old Cubano that watches over the graveyards and sleeping children of Brooklyn, stirs and lights another Malagueña. Down the midnight streets of New York, a whole invisible universe churns to life in Daniel José Older’s debut collection of ghost noir.

Gentrification’s insidious violence: The truth about American cities – Salon

The Real Censorship In Children’s Books: Smiling Slaves Is Just The Half Of It – The Guardian

12 Fundamentals Of Writing “The Other” (And The Self) – Buzzfeed


“What was that all about?” Bennie asked. They were fast-walking down Lafayette toward downtown Brooklyn. Some little kids zipped past on scooters. A group of middle-aged women sat in lawn chairs outside a brownstone, sipping beers and laughing.

Sierra shrugged. “Nothin’.”

“Right, cuz that wasn’t awkward at all.”

“C’mon, Bee! I thought you didn’t wanna be late.”

The Bradwicks’ elaborate Park Slope brownstone was bursting with teenagers when Sierra and Bennie got there. Just about every ninth, tenth, and eleventh grader from Octavia Butler High was running around the backyard or exploring the winding passageways of the house. The sound system alternately blared hip-hop and grungy emo rock as various DJs took turns pushing one another out of the way. Some kids stood in a little circle out back, beatboxing and freestyling, inventing brand-new ways of putting one another down and sending up wild cheers when each dig found its mark.

Sierra’s eyes jumped from face to face, but Robbie’s drawing-covered clothes and slender locks were nowhere to be seen. She watched Big Jerome pick up Little Jerome by the scruff of the neck like he was a puppy and toss him into the pool, upsetting the Marco Polo players. Over at the freestyle circle, her friend Izzy delivered a crushing sixteen-bar denouncement of another kid’s mama. Tee cheered her girlfriend from the crowd. Bennie joined the circle, laughing along with each line. Izzy wrapped up with a triumphant and brutal verse rhyming spastic, sarcastic, and less than fantastic, and the crowd erupted in thunderous applause. The other kid, an extra-short and elegantly dressed tenth grader named Pitkin, recognized defeat and stepped back into the crowd with a gentlemanly bow.

“Sierra! Bennie!” Tee shouted, running over. “Y’all seen my baby shred that tiny dapper kid?”

“Hey!” Pitkin yelled.

Tee cringed and then rolled her eyes beneath her perfectly coifed pompadour. “‘S’all love, bro!”

“I did what I do.” Izzy grinned and walked over, making a little curtsy. Izzy had been entertaining everyone with her perverse rhymes since the fourth grade. “King Impervious on the mic!” she yelled. “Waddup, Brooklyn!”

“Who’s King Impervious?” Bennie asked.

“That’s my MC name, you ain’t know?”

“How she gonna know, Iz?” Tee chided. “You came up with that this morning!”

“But I’m already a global phenomenon!”

Everyone groaned. Izzy was a wisp of a girl, both skinny and short, but she sported a meticulously groomed mane of black hair that added a couple of inches in all directions. She sighed and rested her head on the shoulder of Tee’s designer polo shirt.

“Hey, c’mon now,” Tee yelled, stepping away. “This polo brand-new. Lean on Sierra, her T-shirt been around since the seventies.”

Izzy made a pouty face.

“I’m all set,” Sierra said. “Y’all seen Robbie?”

“You mean Weirdo McPainting Dude?” Tee said.

“You mean the Cartoon-Covered Haitian Sensation?” Izzy suggested.

“You mean the Human Walking Stick?” Bennie offered.

Sierra shook her head. “I hate you one and all. And Bennie, he’s not even that tall and skinny.”

Izzy scoffed. “He’s eight feet tall and two inches wide, Sierra.”

“When he walks down my block,” Tee said, “all the telephone poles be like ‘Ay bruh, what it do?’”

Izzy spat her drink back into the red plastic cup and dapped her girlfriend. “Good one, babe.”

Behind them, someone screamed. Sierra whirled around, but it was just Big Jerome, finally succumbing to the team of eighth graders that Little Jerome had rallied. Big Jerome hollered and tumbled headfirst into the pool, taking at least three younger kids with him. The whole party burst into jeers and laughter.