Jacqueline Woodson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Jacqueline Woodson
Jacqueline Woodson by David Shankbone.jpg
Woodson in September 2007
Born Jacqueline Amanda Woodson
(1963-02-12) February 12, 1963 (age 54)
Columbus, Ohio, United States
Occupation Writer
Nationality American
Period 1990s to present
Genre Young adult fiction
Subject African American literature
Notable works
Notable awards Coretta Scott King Award
Margaret Edwards Award
National Book Award for Young People's Literature
Coretta Scott King Award
Children Toshi Georgianna (daughter), Jackson Leroi (son)

Jacqueline Woodson (born February 12, 1963) is an American writer of books for children and adolescents. She is best known for Miracle's Boys, which won the Coretta Scott King Award in 2001, and her Newbery Honor-winning titles Brown Girl Dreaming, After Tupac and D Foster, Feathers, and Show Way.

For her lifetime contribution as a children's writer, Woodson won the Margaret Edwards Award in 2005[1] and she was the U.S. nominee for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2014.[2][3][4] IBBY named her one of six Andersen Award finalists on March 17, 2014.[5] She won the National Book Award in 2014 in the category of Young People's Literature for Brown Girl Dreaming, and was nominated in Fiction for Another Brooklyn.

In January 2016 the American Library Association announced that Jacqueline Woodson would deliver the 2017 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture, which recognizes significant contribution to children's literature.[6]

Writing career[edit]

After college, Woodson went to work for Kirchoff/Wohlberg, a children's packaging company. She helped to write the California standardized reading tests and caught the attention of a Liza Pulitzer-Voges, a children's book agent at the same company. Although the partnership did not work out, it did get her first manuscript out of a drawer. She then enrolled in Bunny Gable's children's book writing class at the New School, where Bebe Willoughby, an editor at Delacorte, heard a reading from Last Summer with Maizon and requested the manuscript. Delacorte bought the manuscript, but Willoughby left the company before editing it and so Wendy Lamb took over and saw Woodson's first six books published.[8]


Woodson's youth was split between South Carolina and Brooklyn. In her interview with Jennifer M. Brown she remembered: "The South was so lush and so slow-moving and so much about community. The city was thriving and fast-moving and electric. Brooklyn was so much more diverse: on the block where I grew up, there were German people, people from the Dominican Republic, people from Puerto Rico, African-Americans from the South, Caribbean-Americans, Asians."[8]

When asked to name her literary influences in an interview with journalist Hazel Rochman, Woodson responded: "Two major writers for me are James Baldwin and Virginia Hamilton. It blew me away to find out Virginia Hamilton was a sister like me. Later, Nikki Giovanni had a similar effect on me. I feel that I learned how to write from Baldwin. He was onto some future stuff, writing about race and gender long before people were comfortable with those dialogues. He would cross class lines all over the place, and each of his characters was remarkably believable. I still pull him down from my shelf when I feel stuck."[9] Other early influences included Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Sula, and the work of Rosa Guy as well as her high-school English teacher, Mr. Miller.[8] Louise Meriwether was also named.[10]


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.[8] 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."[8]

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, you're — 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 is 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."[11]


Jacqueline Woodson has, in turn, influenced many other writers, including An Na, who credits her as being her first writing teacher.[9] She also teaches teens at the National Book Foundation's summer writing camp where she co-edits the annual anthology of their combined work.[8]


As of June 2015, Woodson was named the Young People's Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation.[12]


Some reviewers have labeled Woodson's writings as "issue-related", but she believes that her books address universal questions.[8] 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.[8] Woodson states that her interests lie in exploring many different perspectives through her writings, not in forcing her views onto others.[7]

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.[9] 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.[7]


Only The Notebooks of Melanin Sun, Miracle's Boys and Locomotion are written from a male perspective. The rest of Woodson's works feature female narrators.[9] However, her 2009 short story "Trev", published in How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity, features a transgender male narrator.

African-American society and history[edit]

In her 2003 novel, Coming on Home Soon, she explores both race and gender within the historical context of World War II.[9]

The Other Side is a poetic look at race through two young girls, one black and one white, who sit on either side of the fence that separates their worlds.[7]

In November 2014, Daniel Handler, the master of ceremonies at the National Book Awards, made a joke about watermelons when Woodson received an award. In a New York Times Op-Ed published shortly thereafter, "The Pain of the Watermelon Joke," Woodson explained that "in making light of that deep and troubled history" with his joke, Daniel Handler had come from a place of ignorance. She underscored the need for her mission to "give people a sense of this country's brilliant and brutal history, so no one ever thinks they can walk onto a stage one evening and laugh at another's too often painful past."[13]

Economic status[edit]

The Dear One is notable in that it deals with the differences between rich and poor within the black community.[7]

Sexual identity[edit]

The House You Pass on the Way is a novel that touches on gay identity through the main characters of Staggerlee.[9]

In The Dear One Woodson introduces a strongly committed lesbian relationship between Marion and Bernadette. She then contrasts it to the broken straight family that results in a teenager from Harlem named Rebecca moving in with them and their twelve-year-old daughter, Feni.[7]

Critical response[edit]

Last Summer with Maizon, Woodson's first book, was praised by critics for creating positive female characters and the touching portrayal of the close eleven-year-old friends. Reviewers also commented on its convincing sense of place and vivid character relationships. The next two books in the trilogy, Maizon at Blue Hill and Between Madison and Palmetto, were also well received for their realistic characters and strong writing style. The issues of self-esteem and identity are addressed throughout the three books. A few reviewers felt that there was a slight lack of focus as the trilogy touched lightly and quickly on too many different problems in too few pages. The issues of self-esteem and identity are addressed throughout the three books.[7]

The ALA Margaret A. Edwards Award recognizes one writer and a particular body of work "for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature". Woodson won the annual award in 2006, citing five books published from 1994 to 2000: I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This, its sequel Lena, From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun, If You Come Softly, and Miracle's Boys. According to the panel of librarians chair, "Woodson's books are powerful, groundbreaking and very personal explorations of the many ways in which identity and friendship transcend the limits of stereotype."[1]


Some of the topics covered in Woodson's books raise flags for many censors. Homosexuality, child abuse, harsh language and other content have led to issues with censorship. In an interview on NPR Woodson said that she uses very few curse words in her books and that the issues adults have with her subject matter say more about what they are uncomfortable with than it does what their students should be thinking about. She suggests that people look at the various outside influences teens have access to today, then compare that to the subject matter in her books.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Woodson is a lesbian with a partner and two children, a daughter named Toshi Georgianna and a son named Jackson-Leroi.[10]

Complete works[edit]


Middle grade titles[edit]

  • Last Summer with Maizon (1990)
  • Maizon at Blue Hill (1992)
  • Between Madison and Palmetto (1993)
  • Feathers (2007)
  • After Tupac and D Foster (2008), Newbery Honor,[15] 2009 Josette Frank Award
  • Peace Locomotion (2009), Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards, Keystone to Reading Book Award
  • Locomotion (2010), verse novel, Coretta Scott King Honor,[16] 2004 ALA Best Book for Young Adults[17]
  • Brown Girl Dreaming (2014), verse novel, Newbery Honor Award 2015[18]

Young adult titles[edit]

  • The Dear One (1990)
  • I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This (1994), Coretta Scott King Honor[16]
  • From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun (1995), Coretta Scott King Honor[16]
  • The House You Pass on the Way (1997)
  • If You Come Softly (1998), ALA Best Book for Young Adults[19]
  • Lena (1999)
  • Miracle's Boys (2000), Coretta Scott King Award,[16] ALA Best Book for Young Adults[20]
  • Hush (2002), 2003 ALA Best Book for Young Adults[21]
  • Behind You (2004), 2005 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers,[22] YALSA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults for 2005,[23] ALA Best Book for Young Adults[23]
  • Beneath a Meth Moon (2012)
  • The Letter Q: Queer Writers' Notes to Their Younger Selves (2012) (Contributor)

Illustrated works[edit]

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. and His Birthday (nonfiction), illus. Floyd Cooper (1990)
  • Book Chase, illus. Steve Cieslawski (1994)
  • We Had a Picnic This Sunday Past, illus. Diane Greenseid (1997)
  • Sweet, Sweet Memory, illus. Floyd Cooper (2000)
  • The Other Side, illus. E. B. Lewis (2001)
  • Visiting Day, illus. James Ransome (2002)
  • Our Gracie Aunt, illus. Jon J. Muth (2002)
  • Coming on Home Soon, illus. E. B. Lewis (2003)
  • Show Way, illus. Hudson Talbott (2006)
  • Pecan Pie Baby, illus. Sophie Blackall (2010)
  • Each Kindness, illus. E. B. Lewis (2012), Coretta Scott King Honor[16]
  • This Is the Rope, illus. James Ransome (2013)



In 2002, filmmaker Spike Lee and others made Miracle's Boys into a miniseries.

Audio recordings[edit]

  • I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This, Recorded Books, 1999
  • Lena, Recorded Books, 1999
  • Miracle's Boys, Listening Library, 2001
  • Locomotion, Recorded Books, 2003


  1. ^ a b "2006 Margaret A. Edwards Award Winner". Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). American Library Association (ALA).
      "Edwards Award". YALSA. ALA. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
  2. ^ "2014 Awards". Hans Christian Andersen Awards. IBBY. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  3. ^ "2014 National Book Awards". National Book Foundation. February 2015. Retrieved April 24, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Bryan Collier and Jacqueline Woodson Nominated for 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award". USBBY press release June 15, 2013. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  5. ^ "2014 Hans Christian Andersen Awards Shortlist". IBBY. March 17, 2014. Retrieved March 19, 2014.
  6. ^ 2016 "Newbery, Caldecott awards honor best children's books", CNN, January 11, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "Jacqueline Woodson." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center. HENNEPIN COUNTY LIBRARY. June 13, 2009
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Brown, Jennifer M. "From outsider to insider. (PWInterview)." Publishers Weekly. 249.6 (February 11, 2002): p. 156. Literature Resource Center. Gale. HENNEPIN COUNTY LIBRARY. June 13, 2009.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Rochman, Hazel. "Jacqueline Woodson", Booklist. 101.11 (February 1, 2005), p. 968. Literature Resource Center. Gale. HENNEPIN COUNTY LIBRARY. June 13, 2009.
  10. ^ a b Williams, Carla (2002). "Woodson, Jacqueline". glbtq.com. Retrieved January 24, 2009. 
  11. ^ a b "Interview: Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Lethem and Jacqueline Woodson discuss the writer's view of adolescence". Talk of the Nation (August 19, 2004): Literature Resource Center. Gale. HENNEPIN COUNTY LIBRARY. June 13, 2009.
  12. ^ "Jacqueline Woodson Named Young People's Poet Laureate". The Poetry Foundation. June 3, 2015. Retrieved November 7, 2015. 
  13. ^ Woodson, Jacqueline (November 28, 2014). "The Pain of the Watermelon Joke". New York Times. 
  14. ^ "Another Brooklyn A Novel by Jacqueline Woodson". HarperCollins. October 21, 2017. 
  15. ^ "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922-Present | Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC)". www.ala.org. Retrieved November 7, 2015. 
  16. ^ a b c d e "Coretta Scott King Book Awards - All Recipients, 1970-Present | Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT)". www.ala.org. Retrieved November 7, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Best Books for Young Adults Annotated List 2004 | Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)". www.ala.org. Retrieved November 7, 2015. 
  18. ^ "2015 Newbery, Caldecott and Printz awards announced". latimes.com. Retrieved October 10, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Best Books for Young Adults | Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)". www.ala.org. Retrieved November 7, 2015. 
  20. ^ "2001 Best Books for Young Adults | Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)". www.ala.org. Retrieved November 7, 2015. 
  21. ^ "YALSA - For Members Only 2003 Best Books for Young Adults Annotated List". Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). Retrieved November 7, 2015. 
  22. ^ "2005 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers | Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)". www.ala.org. Retrieved November 7, 2015. 
  23. ^ a b "Best Books for Young Adults 2005 | Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)". www.ala.org. Retrieved November 7, 2015. 

External links[edit]