Jacqueline Woodson, born on February 12, 1963, in Columbus, Ohio, has grown to become one of the most respected and esteemed voices in the world of children's literature. Woodson's work as an author, marked by her unique writing style, distinctive voice, and extraordinary storytelling, stands as a testament to her passion for literature and her commitment to creating engaging, relevant, and thought-provoking narratives. Through her books and poetry, she explores topics such as identity, race, social class, and gender, shedding light on issues that are often overlooked or misrepresented.
Woodson spent her early life split between Greenville, South Carolina, where she stayed with her grandparents, and Brooklyn, New York. She credits her Southern roots for cultivating her love for storytelling, which later evolved into a remarkable career. She began writing at the tender age of seven, with the encouragement of her family. Woodson's path to success was not straightforward, as she struggled with reading as a child. But it was through overcoming this struggle that she developed an appreciation for literature and the power of words, sparking a flame that would ignite her love for writing.
The author's writing career took flight in 1990 with her first book, "Last Summer with Maizon." This was the opening act to the trilogy, followed by "Maizon at Blue Hill" and "Between Madison and Palmetto." Woodson delves into the themes of friendship, loss, and change through her young protagonists, Maizon and Margaret.
However, it was in 1994 that Woodson's writing took a deeper, more poignant direction with the release of "I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This." This novel, coupled with its sequel, "Lena," explored sensitive issues such as race, class, and sexual abuse, earning her critical acclaim and demonstrating her aptitude for tackling complex social issues.
In 2001, Woodson's "Miracle's Boys" won the Coretta Scott King Award. The story revolves around three orphaned brothers navigating the challenging world of Harlem, dealing with the loss of their parents and the struggle to keep their family intact. This novel solidified Woodson's reputation as a fearless writer, unafraid to explore heavy, emotionally charged topics.
Over the years, Woodson has also written several picture books, including "The Other Side" and "Each Kindness." These beautifully illustrated books speak volumes about social issues, diversity, and acceptance, bringing forth messages that resonate with readers of all ages.
"Brown Girl Dreaming," published in 2014, holds a special place in Woodson's illustrious career. This autobiographical novel in verse, reminiscent of her early years in South Carolina and New York, won numerous awards, including the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, a Newbery Honor, and the NAACP Image Award. It also garnered a Coretta Scott King Award. The book stands as a testament to Woodson's poetic prowess, her ability to weave a narrative through verse, and her capacity to touch on serious issues with warmth and sensitivity.
Woodson's young adult novel, "If You Come Softly," published in 1998, is a Romeo and Juliet-inspired tale of interracial love. The book, along with its sequel "Behind You," continues to engage young readers, fostering a deep understanding of relationships, prejudice, and loss.
Her more recent works like "Another Brooklyn," her first adult novel in twenty years, was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction. It explores the concept of memory, friendship, and the challenges of growing up. "Red at the Bone," another adult novel published in 2019, dives into the themes of teenage pregnancy, parenthood, and the dynamic of an African-American family through generations. This book became an instant New York Times bestseller, demonstrating once again Woodson's talent for crafting compelling narratives that resonate with a wide array of audiences.
Though primarily known for her prose, Jacqueline Woodson's foray into poetry is equally impressive. Her poignant and rhythmically flowing verse often delves into similar themes found in her prose: identity, familial ties, adolescence, and the intersectionality of race, class, and gender. This blend of social commentary and elegant lyricism is perhaps best seen in "Locomotion," a novel written entirely in verse. The book, published in 2003, tells the story of Lonnie, an eleven-year-old African American boy navigating the foster care system after the death of his parents.
Despite her numerous accolades, what truly sets Woodson apart is her commitment to creating characters that readers can relate to, representing diverse experiences and backgrounds. Through her work, she has been a champion for diversity in children's literature, encouraging publishers to broaden their scopes and readers to open their minds.
For her work, Woodson has been recognized both nationally and internationally. In 2006, she received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for her significant contribution to young adult literature. In 2015, she was named the Young People's Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation, an honor given to recognize outstanding achievement in poetry for children. The following year, in 2016, Woodson was awarded the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, an international prize for children's literature.
Her recognition extended into a broader cultural context in 2018 when she was chosen as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by the Library of Congress. In this role, Woodson worked to promote the importance of reading, not just as a skill to be learned but as a means to connect with others, understand different perspectives, and build empathy.
Woodson's journey has not been limited to writing books and poetry. She is a committed advocate for social justice, using her platform to speak on issues of race, gender, and class. Her works are a manifestation of her beliefs, providing representation and advocacy for marginalized communities.
Beyond her writing, Jacqueline Woodson lives a life that speaks volumes about her commitment to literature and community. She is a part of various writers' organizations, including serving as a board member for the Authors Guild and on the advisory board of the Authors League Fund. She is an active participant in the We Need Diverse Books movement, advocating for change in the publishing industry.
Woodson's literary work serves as a bridge connecting the world of imagination and real-life issues. Her characters echo the diversity of the human experience, and her storytelling consistently encourages readers to contemplate, empathize, and grow. As one of the most celebrated authors in children's literature and beyond, Woodson's contributions to literature extend beyond her published works and into her advocacy for diversity, representation, and the transformative power of storytelling. Woodson served as the Poetry Foundation's Young People's Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her family.
Poems - 15 in all
the candy lady
what god knows
the almost friends
brown girl dreaming
the woodsons of ohio
it'll be scary sometimes