Jacqueline Woodson on Another Brooklyn, diversity, and more

Photo: Marty Umans Photo: Marty Umans

Jacqueline Woodson's new book Another Brooklyn is a novel for adults, her first in more than two decades, but fans of her children's books found plenty to enjoy when she discussed her work at Porter Square Books on Wednesday, August 17th.

Woodson talked to WGBH's Callie Crossley, who also featured the book on her Under the Radar Book Club. They talked about how Bed-Stuy has changed since Woodson was growing up there (Pro tip: Watch your pronunciation! New arrivals tend to put the accent on the wrong syllable) and how much of herself Woodson brought to the book's main character.

A teacher from New Jersey, holding up her copy of The Other Side, asked for advice on explaining discrimination and encouraging diversity when her students rarely interact with anyone from a different background. Woodson had plenty of concrete suggestions, including ways to use the book to launch student discussions and the challenge presented by a simple question: When was the last time your family had dinner — not lunch, but dinner — with people of another race?

There were other Brooklynites in the audience, so some of the questions started off establishing geographic commonalities: These are my cross streets. What high school did you go to? (Woodson started out in a fashion design program, thinking she would go into seamstressing, but graduated from the local high school.)

woodson_another brooklynWoodson signed plenty of copies of Another Brooklyn, but many people in the audience brought copies of her children's books. Most of those were well-loved and came with stories of their own, including one that belonged to the Needham Little Free Library, and was returning to its shelf newly inscribed by the author.

One young reader in the audience had brought his summer-reading copy of Brown Girl Dreaming for an autograph. Woodson signed it for him — and then asked if he had any suggestions for getting her daughter to start her own summer reading before school starts again!

Sarah Rettger
Sarah Rettger is an independent bookseller in Boston.

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