Friday, February 19, 2010

Guest Post: Jacqueline Woodson

Let me extend my thanks to Susan from Color Online for doing this guest-post for us! She has kindly provided this information on Jacqueline Woodson, a GLBT POC author, and her many books. :)

***
For my post, I’m focusing on my YA hero, Jacqueline Woodson. Seriously, people, my admiration and love for this writer’s work borders girl crush. Ms. Woodson is prolific and talented; she is the standard to aim for.

Ms. Woodson is my favorite YA author for many reasons; two include her ability to examine stereotypes without banging the reader over the head, and her insights are subtle but poignant. The author is lesbian, African American and a parent. Now I don’t know many authors with this combination of experiences and identity in the YA field of writers. I think her experiences allow her to identify on many levels in ways that come across authentic to a broad spectrum of readers.

When Ms. Woodson explores race and sexual orientation, it’s always in the context of personal relationships. Her language and the dialogue between characters aren’t political but intimate and this matters. It is much easier to examine social mores and societal norms in the context of our personal lives. I think so anyway. In Woodson’s work, race and sexual orientation are integral elements of the work but they never overwhelm a story. The stories are always about the character’s growth and ability to address conflicts both internal and external. In other words, she doesn’t preach. She nudges young people to examine their own ideas and feelings on their terms.

Ms. Woodson is a prolific writer (22 titles to date) and I intend to read her entire collection. Below is a short list of what I have read and a brief annotation for each.

The House You Pass On The Way- Stagerlee negotiates feelings of her place among her family, how she feels about the legacy of her grandparents and questioning her budding sexuality.

From The Notebooks of Melanin Sun- Melanin is beautifully, wonderfully dark. He and his mother have a close and strong bond. This summer he has his first real crush. His mother falls in love, too. When she tells him she loves a woman, a white woman no less, they struggle to come to terms how this new person fits in their world.

Locomotion- Lonnie lost his parents in a fire. His teacher introduces him to poetry and Lonnie expresses his frustrations, his love for his sister and his dream for them to be reunited.

The Dear One- Feni lives with her professional mom, is adjusting to being away from her estranged dad and if that wasn’t enough, her mother tells her they're having a house guest for a few months: her mom’s friend’s pregnant daughter. Feni has a lot to learn about her own stereotyping and herself.

If You Come Softly
- Miah and Elly fall in love. It’s first love and like first love there are pangs but for this interracial couple race isn’t the only issue they have to tackle.

After Tupac and D. Foster – Like many parents I didn’t understand the appeal of hip hop or this icon. Woodson illustrates why the musical icon and the culture matter so much to a generation. Three young girls with distinct personalities and different family backgrounds discover more about themselves as they leave the innocence of childhood behind.

Readers Against WhiteWashing. Join Us.

23 comments:

Nymeth said...

ability to examine stereotypes without banging the reader over the head, and her insights are subtle but poignant.

Even though I've only read two of her books so far, I absolutely agree with this. I must read more.

Cass said...

Great post! I've read Lena and The House You Pass on the Way, which I'm reviewing for this month's mini-challenge. I'm excited to read more of her books.

Tea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tea said...

I should have put more thought in my post. I write so early in the morning. Then, I write more in a comment. By now I'm pooped. Please excuse the brevity of my last comment. I'm just exhausted by this end of day. Thank you for putting all of these wonderful authors past and present together for Black History Month. This month is so important to me. All of you have shown it means just as much or more to you. Thank you.

Amanda said...

Susan did a wonderful job with this post. I need to read something by Jacqueline Woodson. :)

robby (once upon a book blog/fourteen years) said...

She sounds so great! I'm eager to read If You Come Softly. It sounds wonderful! :]

Color Online said...

Robby,

If You Come Softly is beautiful. I hope you enjoy it. Please let me know if you review.

Thanks all for the kind words. Woodson rocks.

Amy said...

Perfectly said, you really sum up why I love her work so much!

Deborah said...

One of my favorite books by Jacqueline Woodson is I Hadn't Meant To Tell You This. there are very few books written for teens that explore friendship across racial lines. Issues such as class and sexual abuse are handled skillfully but the most important thing: the ability to connect with another who understands is the real power that carries this book. It was way ahead of its time.

Color Online said...

Deborah,

I read both I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This and Lena and I agree. We rarely look at socio-economics and friendships across race that feel real.

At our library, IHMTY was one of those book I made sure we had. Girls checked it out and I didn't need to ask why they were interested.

Color Online said...

Thanks, Amy.

MissAttitude said...

I can tell I'm totally missing out on her work, I should be starting If You Come Softly soon and I'm excited :) I love an author who isn't too preachy but still gets their point across in an enjoyable/heartfelt way.

Great post susan and I'm so glad that word is spreading about this wonderful author! She is a much needed voice in the YA/MG lit world.

Jeannine said...

I have been studying her picture books to aid my own writing. I recently ventured into her YA stuff. Is there anything she can't do? Great interview.

Tarie said...

WOW. Her work sounds amazing. I have only read Feathers. Her other books sound even better than Feathers!

Kelly said...

Jacqueline Woodson is an amazing writer. And her stories are equally eloquent and powerful no matter what genre she chooses. I've always been drawn to her picture books. Coming on Home Soon and Visiting Day are two of my favorites. Then I startd reading her MGs like Locomotion, Peace, Locomotion and Feathers and was blown away again. Then, I read After Tupac and D Foster and my admiration grew even more.

Thanks, Susan, for a great post on an incredible author who's an inspiration to so many. She was a vanguard author for the 28 Days Later campaign last year. You can check out an interview with her in The Brown Bookshelf archives.

Jenny said...

Thanks for sharing this - I have heard wonderful things about Jacqueline Woodson but I haven't been sure where to start. These look like great recommendations!

Staci said...

I loved reading this post about Woodson. I find her writing poetic and beautiful. I loved If You Come Softly and Behind You....some of my favorite YA to-date.

Shewrites said...

She's an amazing writer. Thanks for this post!

evelyn.n.alfred said...

I ordered Autobiography of a Family Photo: A Novel, by Ms. Woodson after reading your article. Great post Susan.

Ali said...

Nice summary post. The couple of Woodson novels I've started haven't grabbed me for some reason. Knowing how much you love her inspires me to keep trying until I find the right one, though.

susan said...

Thanks all,

Ali I don't remember which ones you met. She's written 22. I hope you find something but sometimes a writer doesn't resonate with us.

Patricia, thanks for commenting. I found a new blog.

Evelyn, I need a new Woodson title but I'm currently being influenced by the multiple challenges I'm in and it can be overwhelming though still fun. I'm trying to not go to my favorites first.

nathaliemvondo said...

I'm familiar with her picture books as well. There is definitely something for everyone in her bibliography.

Thank you for such a great post, Susan. I learned much about her work.

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

I only discovered Woodson two years ago and have been working my way through her entire backlist. Right when I think her books can't get any better, then I read another. Fantastic author.