Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tucson Festival of Books Author Spotlight: Jacqueline Woodson

If you like realistic fiction about teenagers with problems, like Crank by Ellen Hopkins or Monster by Walter Dean Myers, you should pick up something by Jacqueline Woodson. You're in for a treat. She'll be a guest speaker at the Tucson Festival of Books this year, which is a huge gathering on the U of A campus to celebrate books, authors, and reading. Here's their page for teens.              

The first book I read by her was If You Come Softly. It's a sad, kind of Romeo and Juliet-esque story. Jeremiah's black, and Ellie's white. They meet at a private school and fall in love without being prepared for how society views their relationship. On her website, she writes that it was inspired by a poem by Audre Lord, which begins:
If you come softly  
as the wind within the trees
you may hear what I hear 
         see what sorrow sees.

She's written many books for children and teens. She generally features characters of color and writes about many different African-American themes, also focusing on gender and class. The themes might seem familiar to you, but she makes you think about things in new, groundbreaking ways.

One of her books, Miracle's Boys, won a Coretta Scott King award. It's about three biracial kids who had to raise themselves after their mother dies. It's a fast, gripping read because it's mostly told with dialogue. 

Maybe you've wondered what it would be like to be in the witness protection program. One of her most popular books, Hush, is about a 12-year-old girl who finds out what it's like, after her father, who's a cop, witnesses a murder by two other, crooked cops. The fact that he's black and the crooked cops are white complicates things, and soon they're finding themselves shunned. The whole family finds out out a lot of things about themselves when they enter the program and have to change everything that seemed familiar, from their city, to their religion, to their names.

If you're a rap fan, you'll love After Tupac, which is about two girls who bond over his lyrics. And even if you're not a fan when you start the book, you might be after you see his music through their eyes.

She is also a lesbian who writes realistic gay and transgender characters, like the young protagonist in The House You Pass on the Way, and one set of parents in The Dear One. I really like this quote from The Dear One: "People are going to judge you all the time no matter what you do...Don't worry about other people. Worry about you."

Happy reading, and I hope to see you at the Festival of Books!

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