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Black History Spotlight | Jacqueline Woodson

Black History Spotlight | Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson, a resident of Brooklyn, NY, has penned several books for children across the age scale. Often times writing from things that have touched her heart personally, or just wondering how a story would play out in general, she has something for each level of child in your household to enjoy.

Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson

[I wanted] to write about communities that were familiar to me and people that were familiar to me. I wanted to write about communities of color. I wanted to write about girls. I wanted to write about friendship and all of these things that I felt like were missing in a lot of the books that I read as a child.

Jacqueline Woodson

This article appeared earlier on Houseful of Nicholes, but we’re updating with more information and background on Jacqueline Woodson.

Last year, I picked up Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson and didn’t expect to be as moved as I was. Lately, a lot of young adult literature has been doing that. Transporting me back to the time when everything was confusing and so many adults had great expectations for me, based on decisions that they made while they were also young adults. How class, colorism, education, and so many other things lead us on a journey without many of us realizing as much.

Red at the Bone isn’t a long read. I picked it up because I had to get back into the swing of things with my word consumption, and Woodson beautifully handles all of the themes with a gentle hand. I may let my 13 year old read it this year, considering it’s an adult novel, even though I still want to hold on to my perceived innocence of her. I know that this world has provided her with some lessons that I didn’t necessarily want her to learn this early in life – mostly about class, education, and colorism but there is a strong line of mother-daughter relationships that flow through the book that I think would be good for her to process.

While Woodson may be known heavily for books for children of all ages, she has written other adult fiction and the next title that I have my eye on is Another Brooklyn: A Novel.

As an author, Woodson’s known for the detailed physical landscapes she writes into each of her books. She places boundaries everywhere—social, economic, physical, sexual, racial—then has her characters break through both the physical and psychological boundaries to create a strong and emotional story. She is also known for her optimism. She has said that she dislikes books that do not offer hope. She has offered the novel Sounder as an example of a “bleak” and “hopeless” novel. On the other hand, she enjoyed A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Even though the family was exceptionally poor, the characters experienced “moments of hope and sheer beauty”. She uses this philosophy in her own writing, saying, “If you love the people you create, you can see the hope there.”

As a writer, she consciously writes for a younger audience. There are authors who write about adolescence or from a youth’s point of view, but their work is intended for adult audiences. Woodson writes about childhood and adolescence with an audience of youth in mind. In an interview on National Public Radio (NPR) she said, “I’m writing about adolescents for adolescents. And I think the main difference is when you’re writing to a particular age group, especially a younger age group, the writing can’t be as implicit. You’re more in the moment. They don’t have the adult experience from which to look back. So you’re in the moment of being an adolescent … and the immediacy and the urgency [are] very much on the page because that’s what it feels like to be an adolescent. Everything is so important, so big, so traumatic. And all of that has to be in place for them.”

Some reviewers have labeled Woodson’s writings as “issue-related”, but she believes that her books address universal questions. She has tackled subjects that were not commonly discussed when her books were published, including interracial couples, teenage pregnancy, and homosexuality. She often does this with sympathetic characters put into realistic situations. Woodson states that her interests lie in exploring many different perspectives through her writings, not in forcing her views onto others.

Woodson has several themes that appear in many of her novels. She explores issues of gender, class, and race as well as family and history. She is known for using these common themes in ground-breaking ways. While many of her characters are given labels that make them “invisible” to society, Woodson is most often writing about their search for self rather than a search for equality or social justice.

Check out some of the titles before, and put them on hold at your local library. You’ll enjoy them!

Author of books for Preschoolers, Middle Schoolers, and Young Adults.

Picture Books

Pecan Baby Pie

We Had A Picnic This Sunday Past

The Other Side

Sweet, Sweet Memory

Our Gracie Aunt

Visiting Day

Show Way

Middle School Titles

Between Madison and Palmetto

Maizon at Blue Hill

Last Summer with Maizon

Coming on Home Soon


Each Kindness


Peace Locomotion

After Tupac and D Foster

Young Adult Titles

Beneath a Meth Moon


Behind You

If You Come Softly

Miracle’s Boys

From the Notebooks of Melanie Sun

I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This


The House You Pass on The Way

The Dear One

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