Miss Woodson’s Tenderly Disruptive Writings!

By Himanshu Nimbhorkar

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“But on paper, things can live forever. On paper, a butterfly never dies.”

Tenderness! Delicately woven lyrical thoughts. And breathtakingly real visual landscapes. Jacqueline Woodson, best known for titles like ‘Miracle Boys’, ‘After Tupac’, ‘Brown Girl Dreaming’, etc; brings with her tons of optimism and top notch artistic purity.

With writings directed towards children and young adults; Woodson explored sensitive and socially relevant topics through boundary pushing themes revolving around the subjects of race, gender, classes, sexuality, etc.

Born in Ohio, Woodson moved around with her family during her early growing up years. She began narrating her stories at a fairly young age. With immense clarity, she realized and identified her dream of becoming a writer even before heading into her teenage.

Woodson’s writings largely dealt with some deeper philosophical questions. Her sociological approach towards storytelling turned her into one of a kind children’s author. A sense of exploration, introspection, reflection; these emotions and feelings lingered in her text, retaining the much needed seriousness while dealing with children’s subject material. And it made her readers more aware. More thoughtful. And more curious. Icing on the cake, a poetic flair to her writings elevated her textual tonality manifold.

Woodson once quoted, “I’m writing about adolescents for adolescents. And I think the main difference is when you’re writing to a particular age group, especially a younger age group, the writing can’t be as implicit. You’re more in the moment.”

She has openly vocalized her thoughts on children’s literature, more specifically how children receive and react to such literature. And how she feels it’s important on her part to undertake one such task of writing for adolescents with sheer responsibility.

She continues, “They don’t have the adult experience from which to look back. So you’re in the moment of being an adolescent and the immediacy and the urgency is very much on the page, because that’s what it feels like to be an adolescent. Everything is so important, so big, so traumatic. And all of that has to be in place for them.”

Her first book ‘Last Summer with Maizon’ had empowering female characters and dealt with the ideas of early adolescent friendship. A critical success, the book was praised for the sensible handling of its social layers and deep understanding of children’s worldviews, especially during a particular age in their growing up years. It was followed by 2 more books, ‘Maizon at blue hill’ and ‘Between Madison and Palmetto’, turning this into a trilogy as a whole. The books also touched upon the supremely serious issue of self doubt and the idea of one’s identity.

‘Autobiography of a family photo’, ‘Another Brooklyn’, ‘Red at the bone’, ‘Feathers’, ‘I hadn’t meant to tell you this’; the long list of the titles in Woodson’s illustrious body of work goes on and on.

“Then I let the stories live, inside my head, again and again, until the real world fades back, into cricket lullabies, and my own dreams.”

Jacqueline Woodson’s tenderly disruptive writings have evoked a range of emotions in countless readers for decades. Her legacy is here to stay. Another day, another veteran making her way. Into our bookshelves. And into our hearts!

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