Review of Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson

Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson
by Jen Bryant; illus. by Cannaday Chapman
Primary, Intermediate, Middle School    Abrams    48 pp.
11/19    978-1-4197-3653-7    $17.99

Beloved African American playwright August Wilson, known for his ten-play Pittsburgh Cycle and other dramas, is introduced to young readers in this elegant picture-book biography. Born Frederick August Kittel Jr. in 1945, Wilson was raised by his single mother in the diverse Hill District of Pittsburgh, awash in a rich medley of languages, people, and cultures. Struggling against discrimination and racial violence from a young age (including being called the n-word, spelled out in full in the text), Wilson was sustained by his love of words — from the squiggles on food labels that he sounded out at age four all the way to the powerful voices of Black authors whose work he discovered at the public library. As an adult, Wilson listened intently to the people around him as he found his own way with words through poetry and eventually plays, giving voice to his own and other Black experiences. That power of words is central to this book: Bryant’s well-researched and well-crafted text is deftly spun into two acts (childhood and adulthood) of freeform poems. Chapman’s clear, intimate, mixed-media art appears throughout the thoughtfully designed pages, further drawing readers into the world of this powerhouse dramatist. The extensive back matter includes an author’s note, a biographical timeline, bibliographic notes, and a list of Wilson’s plays.

From the January/February 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Anastasia M. Collins

Anastasia M. Collins is a children’s literature scholar and academic librarian. She holds an MS in library science and an MA in children’s literature from Simmons University and the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature.

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