Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, a collection of beautifully wrought poems depicting her childhood spent in South Carolina and New York, won the 2014 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Through masterful wordplay, Woodson illustrates what it was like growing up as an African American girl in the 1960s and 1970s, her burgeoning awareness of the Civil Rights movement, and how she found her voice through writing stories. Woodson’s inspiration to write Brown Girl Dreaming came from wanting to understand who her mother was before she became a mother, and revisiting the places of her childhood. Veronica Chambers wrote in the New York Times that “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.”
Much of Woodson’s writing explores the issues of gender, class, and race, as well as family and history, themes she addresses in groundbreaking ways. She gears her writing to children and adolescents, stating that adolescents “don’t have the adult experience from which to look back . . . 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.” Woodson was honored with the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement in Writing for Young Adults, and is the recipient of three Newbery Honors and a two-time Finalist for the National Book Award.