Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson to visit Raleigh on Wednesday

“Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson.
“Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson.

Award-winning children’s book author Jacqueline Woodson’s stories are packed with heartache, joy and wisdom. Her new memoir, “Brown Girl Dreaming,” explores the sweet and gritty moments of her childhood in stunning verse.

“Brown Girl Dreaming” has already received five-star reviews, including ones from School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. It’s also a finalist in the young people’s literature category for the National Book Award.

The Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote, “The writer’s passion for stories and storytelling permeates the memoir, explicitly addressed in her early attempts to write books and implicitly conveyed through her sharp images and poignant observations seen through the eyes of a child.”

Woodson will be reading from “Brown Girl Dreaming” at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh. She is best known for “Miracle’s Boys,” which won the Coretta Scott King Award in 2001 and her Newbery Honor titles “After Tupac & D Foster,” “Feathers” and “Show Way.”

The 51-year-old author explores her relationship between the North and the South. She was born in Columbus, Ohio, but her mother separated from her father and moved to Greenville, S.C., when Woodson was 2 months old. The family moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., when Woodson was about 7 years old.

Carol Moyer, the children’s book buyer at Quail Ridge Books & Music, describes Woodson as having “the soul of a poet and the skills of a storyteller. … You see the beginning of her as a writer. That was so inspiring and breathtaking.”

Woodson describes her yearning to read as a young girl in this passage, “I want to catch words one day. I want to hold them then blow gently, watch them float right out of my hands.”

While the book is designated for ages 10 and older, Moyer said, “Her story is memorable for anyone.”

Woodson is known for tackling tough subjects including race, adoption, death, loneliness and teen pregnancy in her books, which range from picture books to young adult titles.

“I write for whoever needs to read it,” Woodson said about her books during a telephone interview. “Hope is universal. The people who need the books will find the books.”

Wanda Cox-Bailey, the Richard B. Harrison Community Library branch supervisor, has been eagerly awaiting Woodson’s visit. “She’s one of my favorite authors,” Cox-Bailey said. “We just finished fighting over her newest book. It’s a children’s book that transcends age.”

Cox-Bailey often uses Woodson’s books for teachable moments.

“Folks like to stereotype but she’s dealing with the flesh and blood reality of all people. Her books transcend color,” Cox-Bailey said. “Every April, during fair housing month, we pull out her picture book, ‘The Other Side,’ that’s about a friendship between a white and black girl. They are separated by a fence. It talks about segregation. Their lives are separate and apart because of where they live. They are close to each other and yet they don’t talk.”

Cox-Bailey said Woodson tells her stories in “a language that is understood by all ages.”

Cox-Bailey also treasures Woodson’s “Visiting Day,” a picture book about a girl who looks forward to visiting her father in jail. “It’s not real preachy,” she said. “It doesn’t glorify what the father has done. It’s about the love between a parent and child.”

Raleigh poet Lenard Moore, an associate professor of English at the University of Mount Olive, has worked with Woodson at the National Book Foundation Summer Writing Camp. “She deals with issues that should concern people,” he said. “Jackie is careful with language when writing fiction. She’s able to use the tools to write literary works that resonate.”