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Archive for the ‘National Book Award’ Category

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson is the 2014 BrownGirlDreamingwinner of the National Book Award for Young Adult literature. In this novel in free verse, Ms. Woodson takes us on a tour of her childhood in Greenville, SC and Brooklyn, NY. In the same soft voice with which she speaks, she tells of her loving family in South Carolina, her grandfather Gunnar who acted more as her father, her Jehovah’s Witness grandmother, her brothers and sister and her dreams.

In both South Carolina and Brooklyn, the former a recently desegregated Southern state and the latter a theoretically liberal minded Northern borough, she felt the impact of racism. In South Carolina, Blacks still went to the back of the bus to avoid conflict. There were stores that Blacks didn’t enter because they were ignored or because they were segregated prior to desegregation. In Brooklyn, there were streets Blacks didn’t cross because they took them into the white neighborhoods.

Ms. Woodson talks about her feelings of inadequacy when compared with her older sister who was considered gifted. She talks about wanting to be a writer, but reading initially didn’t come easy to her. And, as the 1960s ended and the 1970s began, a young Ms. Woodson was caught up in the idea of “I’m Black and I’m Proud” and the ideals of the Black Panthers.

Brown Girl Dreaming is eloquent. Her life and emotions, such as being sad when the Woodson children had to go in earlier in the evening than other children in the neighborhood, come to life. There are vivid images of both South Carolina and Brooklyn, the contrasting surroundings, soft cool green grass vs. hard, sharp concrete sidewalks, the sweet smell of rain vs. the non-smell of rain. Through it all, it is the bond of family that shines.

Many times I’m not in agreement with the judges of book awards, but Jacqueline Woodson, author of such Young Adult classics (or just classics) as If You Come Softly, Miracle’s Boys, Hush, and Locomotion, is a worthy recipient of the National Book Award Prize. Readers of all ages will get lost in the story telling of her books.

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JacquelineWoodsonI know intellectually there are good authors and not so good authors. There are intelligent authors and not so intelligent authors. But for some reason I stereotype authors into being learned, liberal and sensitive individuals. I envision them agonizing over every word they write…and utter. So when an author makes an inappropriate comment in front of an esteemed audience  of authors, especially when We Need Diversity in Books is in the forefront of literary folks, it surprises (appalls) me. (Funny, it wouldn’t surprise me if a politician said something inappropriate…which, in itself is a sad commentary.)BrownGirlDreaming

Anyone who has heard Jacqueline Woodson (winner of the National Book Award for Young Adult literature) speak, knows she is very soft spoken. And so her response in the NY Times op-ed section is both soft spoken and loud at the same time…and very eloquently stated. See for yourself.

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