“I believe in one day and someday and this perfect moment called Now.”
I was lucky enough to be in the audience at NCTE’s Annual Convention last November when Jacqueline Woodson read this passage from Brown Girl Dreaming, her award-winning memoir in verse. Woodson’s work has always had a place in my classroom, and I am thrilled that she has been named the next National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. This role will allow her to travel around the country sharing her message that “books can drive change and instill hope in young readers.” She summed up her vision as ambassador as “Reading = Hope x Change.” You can hear Woodson talk more about this vision in this NPR interview.
During her speech at NCTE, students from around the country asked questions via pre-recorded video. One student wondered why Woodson chose to write Brown Girl Dreaming and her recent novel Another Brooklyn in verse. Woodson’s brilliant response? “I wrote it in verse because that’s how memory comes to us.”
In “on paper,” from Brown Girl Dreaming, Woodson shares this memory:
The first time I write my full name
Jacqueline Amanda Woodson
without anybody’s help
on a clean white page in my composition notebook,
if I wanted to
I could write anything.
Read the rest of the poem here.
Woodson reminded the teachers at NCTE that “everybody has a story, and everyone has a right to tell that story. Encourage students to tell their stories.” It’s clear that Woodson’s work springs from her own story, her own memories. But her writing also shines with her love for her fellow humans. She urged her NCTE audience to remember that “community is so important. We need to know who we are going to walk through the world with.” I am happy I’m walking through the world with Jacqueline Woodson.
Please be sure to visit Jan Godown Annino at Bookseedstudio for the Poetry Friday Roundup.