Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jacqueline Woodson.

Being that it is my mission in life/future career choice to promote children's & young adult literature, I feel like I should use this space to document notable authors/books, since really I believe it is important for everyone, not just children, to read them. And, I like them, a lot, so there you have it. Now that that unnecessary disclaimer is over with, let's get on to that hottie, Jacqueline Woodson. She has written a whole bunch of novels concerning African American characters, and all of them are good. Well, I've only read three of them, but those three have been good. One of them is Feathers, which was awarded a Newbery honor in 2008, and which I liked but wasn't as strongly affected by as the other two: Locomotion and After Tupac & D Foster.

Locomotion is a novel-written-through-poems, a genre which is actually quite popular in J/Y books these days. I quite enjoy this form - when it's done well - and I LOVE Locomotion. It tells the story of a kid surviving foster care after a fire burned his house and killed his parents. I know, uplifting. Kids books always deal with shockingly disturbing issues, or, rather, the ones I like do. Dealing with his personal pain and issues of being a young black male resonate through his increasingly well made poems.

(from Mama)
No, I say to the cosmetics lady. It's not the right one.
And then I leave fast
Before somebody asks to check my pockets
which are always empty 'cause I don't steal.

(from Failing)
You say 1+1=2 and I go why?
You say just cause
like just 'cause somebody said it means it's the truth
And since I don't believe the things people say is
always the truth
sometimes people lie
it's hard to understand math.

I just finished After Tupac & D Foster and man oh man did I love it. It deals with the life of three girls in Queens during the Tupac era of the 90s. Everything about this novel was just beautiful: the girls and their friendship, their love of Tupac & all he symbolized to them, what it meant to grow up black in Queens in the 90s. I love the excerpt from the very first chapter which is reprinted on the back cover: D Foster showed up a few months before Tupac got shot that first time and left us the summer before he died. By the time her mama came and got her and she took one last walk on out of our lives, I felt like we'd grown up and grown old and lived a hundred lives in those few years we knew her. But we hadn't really. We'd just gone from being eleven to being thirteen. Three the Hard Way. In the end, it was just me and Neeka again. Woodson is also gay, and while I haven't read any novels of hers where gay issues are the central point of the novel, in this novel Neeka's older brother Tash is a "queen," and the issues of being gay and black are particularly unique and interesting to me, and I love the way she writes it. Tash had been a sissy from day one and most people just accepted it. Sometimes when the rappers started going on and on about how much they hated homos, me and Neeka would turn the TV off. We didn't really talk about why--just both of us knew that crap was hard on the ear when the homos they were hating on was your own family. This novel in general is kind of a quiet one, there aren't any huge, crazy plot twists & turns, but it's smart, funny, and sad, and that combination is usually my absolute favorite.

1 comment:

  1. You should read Show Way by her because it's awesome. It's also a Newbery Honor Book.