National Book Award-winner and MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient Jacqueline Woodson is one of the nation’s most acclaimed authors writing for children, adolescents, and adults.
Weaving together lyrical language and powerful imagery to create rich and emotional stories, her work explores the complex intersections of race, class, gender, family, and American history. With more than two dozen award-winning books to her credit, her bestsellers include Red at the Bone, the National Book Award-winning Brown Girl Dreaming, and the Newbery Honor-Winning titles: After Tupac and D Foster, Feathers, and Show Way.
While she struggled with reading as a child, she recognized early on that writing made her happiest. An enduring love of narrative drove her to create worlds that reflect the lives of people from all walks of life. The breadth of her storytelling is remarkable, ranging from fiction, to poetry, to picture books—and she moves fluidly between adult fiction and writing for young people.
“Sometimes we read to understand the future. Sometimes we read to understand the past. We read to get lost, to forget the hard times we’re living in, and we read to remember those who came before us, who lived through something harder. I write for those same reasons.”
—Jacqueline Woodson, TED Talk (over 2 million views)
Her memoir-in-verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, tells the story of her childhood in South Carolina and New York during the 1960s and 70s, following a thread from slavery through Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the civil rights movement. In addition to winning the 2014 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, this “soaring choral poem of a novel” (Vanity Fair), also won the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor Award, an NAACP Image Award, and the Sibert Honor Award. The New York Times Book Review proclaimed, “this is a book full of poems that cry out to be learned by heart. These are poems that will, for years to come, be stored in our bloodstream.”
Woodson’s novels for adults have been similarly acclaimed and explore themes of coming of age, family, and memory. Her 2016 New York Times bestseller, Another Brooklyn, was her first adult fiction in two decades and elicited wide critical-acclaim, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Transporting readers to 1970s Brooklyn—where four young women on the cusp of adulthood navigate the promise and peril of growing up—the story “asks urgent questions” and “delivers uneasy, heartbreaking answers. At its core, this book is about fragility, how light shines in the broken places” (Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards).
Her readership across age cohorts continues to grow, and her most recent adult fiction title, Red at the Bone, was a 2019 New York Times bestseller and Notable Book of the Year, as well as a NAACP finalist for outstanding literary work in fiction. In this “poignant tale of choices and their aftermath” (Tayari Jones, writing in O: The Oprah Magazine), an unexpected teenage pregnancy pulls together two families from different social classes, exploring their histories – reaching back to the Tulsa race massacre of 1921 – and exposing the private hopes, disappointments, and longings that can bind or divide us from each other. The book “manages to encompass issues of class, education, ambition, racial prejudice, sexual desire and orientation, identity, mother-daughter relationships, parenthood and loss” (NPR).
“I think of her as a person with very few limits, whether that’s moving between poetry and prose, whether that’s moving between adult and young reader.”
—Lisa Lucas, former Executive Director of the National Book Foundation
Among her many accolades, Woodson served as the Young People’s Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017, received the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and was the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress for 2018-2019. In 2020, she was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the most prestigious international award recognizing authors and illustrators of children’s literature, and then later that year named a MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellow.
Woodson is the founder to the Baldwin Center for the Arts in New York State, an artist residency program providing a safe and nurturing space for Artists of The Global Majority. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.here.