Celebrating American She-Poets (6): Young People’s Poet Laureate, Jacqueline Woods … Brown Girl Dreaming

Jacqueline Woodson by David Shankbone under CC By SA 3.0 license

Jacqueline Woodson by David Shankbone under CC By SA 3.0 license

American poet and writer, Jacqueline Woods (b. 1963) was named Young People’s Poet Laureate in June last year by The Poetry Foundation. The $25,000 laureate award is given every two years to poets devoted to writing quality poetry for children and youth. Poetry Foundation President, Robert Polito, said Jacqueline is an “elegant, daring, and restlessly innovative writer.”

Jacqueline has written some thirty books. She’s won a National Book Award and three Newberry Honor Medals.

51-Pl9BJ7IL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I just finished reading Brown Girl Dreaming, a memoir in free verse that is not just for brown girls. It can be read in one sitting but like all good poetry is meant to be relished … there is much to savor.

What I like about this work – and what in part accounts for its popularity – is that it puts family life and youthful reflection smack-dab in the context of history. Woodson grew-up during the civil rights movement and tells of watching the Black Panthers on television and sitting in the back of the bus, though Woodson’s mother made a point of affirming for her children that they were as good as anyone.

I enjoyed – and think most kids would too – how Woodson writes about the contradictions in family stories. The day, for example, that she is born is reported differently by mother, father and grandmother, each absolutely sure that he or she is the only one who got it right.

This is a wonderful book for any young person. I venture to say, however,  if yours is a child who dreams of being a writer and can’t envision it happening, then you must put this book in that child’s hands. S/he will be forever grateful.

© 2016, Jamie Dedes

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