Jacqueline Woodson

Photo of Jacqueline Woodson

Photo: © Marty Umans

About the Author

Jacqueline Woodson (www.jacquelinewoodson.com) is the 2014 National Book Award Winner for her New York Times bestselling memoir BROWN GIRL DREAMING, which was also a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor Award, the NAACP Image Award and the Sibert Honor Award. Woodson was recently named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation.  She is the author of more than two dozen award-winning books for young adults, middle graders and children; among her many accolades, she is a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a three-time National Book Award finalist, and a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Woodson began to consider becoming a writer when she was chosen to be the literary editor of a magazine in the fifth grade. Eventually, three books helped convince her to make writing her career: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Daddy Was a Number Runner by Louise Meriwether, and Ruby by Rosa Guy. Before reading these books, Woodson thought that only books featuring mainstream, white characters, or works by William Shakespeare constituted valid literature. But in these three books, Woodson saw parts of herself and her life, and realized that books could be about people like her—and she knew she wanted to write them.

A critically acclaimed author, Woodson writes about characters from a variety of races, ethnicities, and social classes. Woodson says, “There are all kinds of people in the world, and I want to help introduce readers to the kinds of people they might not otherwise meet.” Woodson’s books also feature strong female characters and she often writes about friendship between girls. “Girls rarely get discussed in books and films,” she says, “and I want to do ‘girl stories’ that show strong, independent people.”

Woodson might be describing herself when she uses words like “strong” and “independent.” Even though it isn’t always easy for her to write about the serious issues she does, she feels as though she has no other choice: “I can’t write about nice, easy topics because that won’t change the world. And I do want to change the world—one reader at a time.” Changing the world means changing people’s attitudes about things like teen pregnancy, racial issues, sexual abuse, and class tension. Sometimes it’s difficult to do, but she considers it necessary work, so that her readers will be more aware of different types of people and be better equipped to effect change when they get older. For this same reason, Woodson travels often to schools and libraries, speaking about her literature and the important issues about which she writes. She says, “Grown-ups are jaded. Children are much more open-minded, and they have the power to change the world.”

Her books  include THE OTHER SIDE, EACH KINDNESS, the Caldecott Honor Book COMING ON HOME SOON; the Newbery Honor winners FEATHERS, SHOW WAY, and AFTER TUPAC AND D FOSTER; and MIRACLE’S BOYS, which received the LA Times Book Prize and the Coretta Scott King Award and was adapted into a miniseries directed by Spike Lee. Jacqueline is also the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement for her contributions to young adult literature, the winner of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, and was the 2013 United States nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award.

Born on February 12, 1963, in Columbus, Ohio, Woodson grew up in Greenville, S.C., and Brooklyn, N.Y., and graduated from college with a B.A. in English. A former drama therapist for runaways and homeless children in New York City, she now writes full-time. Woodson also enjoys reading the works of emerging writers and encouraging young people to write; heated political conversations with her friends; and sewing.

PRAISE

BROWN GIRL DREAMING
New York Times Bestseller
—National Book Award Winner
—NAACP Image Award Winner
—Coretta Scott King Award Winner
—Newbery Honor Winner
—E. B. White Read-Aloud Award Winner
—Bank Street Claudia Lewis Award Winner
—Sibert Honor Winner
 
“This is a book full of poems that cry out to be learned by heart.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“Gorgeous.”Vanity Fair
 
“Moving and resonant . . . captivating.”Wall Street Journal
 
“A radiantly warm memoir.”Washington Post
 
* “An extraordinary—indeed brilliant—portrait of a writer as a young girl.”The Horn Book, starred review
 
* “Vivid.”The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, starred review
 
* “Mesmerizing.”School Library Journal, starred review
 
* “A marvel.”Booklist, starred review
 
* “Will linger long after the page is turned.”Kirkus Reviews, starred review
 

EACH KINDNESS
—Jane Addams Children’s Book Award
—Bank Street Best Book
—Charlotte Zolotow Award
Publishers Weekly Best Book
School Library Journal Best Book
 
* “Quiet, intense. . . . Spare, eloquent free verse . . . a story for young kids that will touch all ages.”—Booklist, starred review

* “Always on-target navigating difficulties in human relationships, Woodson teams up with Lewis to deal a blow to the pervasive practice–among students of all economic backgrounds–of excluding those less fortunate. . . . Lyrical and stylistically tight writing. . . . Gives opportunity for countless inferences and deep discussion . . . invite[s] readers to pause, reflect, and empathize. . . . With growing income disparity, and bullying on the rise, this story of remorse and lost opportunity arrives none too soon.”—School Library Journal, starred review

* “Turns readers into witnesses as kindness hangs in the balance. . . . Brings an unsparing lyricism to a difficult topic.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
 
“Unfolds with harsh beauty and the ominousness of opportunities lost.”—Kirkus Reviews

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Jacqueline Woodson Also Contributed To

Author Essay

An Interview with Jaqueline Woodson
Preview Magazine, Spring 2002

What do you have to have by you to write?

Paper, a good pen, sometimes my dog. Having lots of quiet surrounding me is always nice.

Where do you write?

Wherever I can and on anything that’s handy.

What time of day do you get your best ideas?

My ideas come to me all times during the day and night. I write best in the mornings.

Describe your writing uniform.

Pajamas.

Whom do you share your writing with first?

My girlfriend, Juliet. My friends Toshi and Teresa and then my writing group.Do you read reviews of your own work?Sometimes, and only the good ones.

What are you reading right now?

Nothing. I’m taking a long-needed break from reading and writing. Feels strange—good strange.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Some of my favorite books were No Roses For Harry, Zeely, Chicken Soup With Rice, and Stevie by John Steptoe was an all-time favorite.What was the first book you remember reading, or being read to you, as a child?I remember my big sister reading Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates— I think that was the name of it. I didn’t really like it.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

From the time I was about ten, although I was writing poetry and stories when I was seven.

What were you doing when you found out that your first book was accepted for publication?

I was working two jobs and hoping that would change.

What did you treat yourself to when you received your first advance check?

Probably dinner.

Tell me about writing Hush.

It was hard. It was a very different story for me. It gave me headaches at times and sometimes it was really rewarding. I’m glad it’s done and that Evie/Toswiah and her family are okay. Once I’ve written the book, I try to put as much of the writing experience of that particular work behind me so that I can move on. As I said before, right now I’m moving on to a break—thank goodness —and then, maybe in the new year, I’ll get back to writing. I think writing Hush really exhausted me.

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