Jacqueline Woodson Red at the Bone

On Wednesday evening, I got the opportunity to hear Jacqueline Woodson read from her latest novel for adults, Red at the Bone, at the First Parish Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, hosted by Harvard Book Store. Within minutes, I was transported from the church pew in Cambridge to a stoop in Brooklyn sometime in the late 1980s/early 1990s. I could see the little girls jumping double dutch, their braids swinging with the ropes. I could see the men in their tracksuits with their dookie chains, Kangols, and gold teeth. I could hear the radio blasting in the background.

Photo: Martha Parravano

As Jacqueline Woodson read, I was reminded of Saturday afternoon with my grandmother who is also a fabulous storyteller. Again, Woodson has created a book that is simple in the writing but large in the ideas that it deals with. I was left asking: What does it mean to be a young mother? What does it mean to have a family? To love? To lose? To be a part of legacy? Those were the questions that Woodson was grappling with while writing Red at the Bone.

Woodson has become a part of a legacy of Black women writers who are not afraid to talk about issues that are often seen as taboo and only whispered as gossip. Secrets to be kept. Thank you to the teacher that told a young Woodson to write down her "lies" so she could call them fiction. Thank you Jacqueline Woodson for telling the stories you do and for continuing the legacy of storytelling for a new generation.

Jacqueline Woodson is current National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and winner of the 2018 Children's Literature Legacy Award, among many others. Read more from The Horn Book by and about Woodson here.

Nicholl Denice Montgomery

Nicholl Denice Montgomery is currently working on a PhD at Boston College in the curriculum and instruction department. Previously, she worked as an English teacher with Boston Public Schools.

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