She started first grade in Brooklyn, New York, and has always loved English writing. According to Catheine Saalfield,
who wrote Woodson's biography for Contemporary Lesbian Writers of the United States, woodson displayed "her cavalier
attitude toward sex and sexuality very early in her life. She also displayed her writing ability early. In 5th grade, JW won
a poetry contest and was accused of plagiarizing. The first six lines of her poem came from a poem her 7th grade sister had
written, but the rest of the poem was hers:
"Tribute to Martin Luther King"
All of them were great,
But a willingness to
In fine big houses
Lived the whites
And in little old shacks
Lived the blacks.
One of them was Martin
With a heart of gold
Not like white bigots
With hearts colder than cold.
He fought for peace
He fought for me
And probably you.
Her books are not autobiographical in any way, but the issues she puts into her stories are issues she knows a lot about
on a personal level. Some of these issues include absentee parents or parents caught up in their own world. Woodson was well-loved,
but describes feeling that she was living her life on the outside of things. In stories like Lena and The House
You Pass on The Way, she looks at characters who are both connected to something (for Lena it is her younger sister and
then her friend Marie, and for Staggerlee it is Trout);and separated by something (Lena is separated from others while dealing
with the problem of incest, and Staggerlee is dealing with the problems of multiple levels of difference).
Woodson tries to deal with Interracial issues whenever she can. Many of her books deal with both interracial and lesbian
issues, but a few just focus on the inter-racial aspect. In If You Come Softly Woodson created the characters Elisha
and Jeremiah. Elisha is white and Jeremiah is black. They meet at school and are instantly attracted to each other. Their
story follows that relationship beautifully. This book is interesting from a writer's standpoint because it opens with the
writer giving information on the ending of the story. From the beginning the reader knows that something terrible happens.
Why read a story when you know what is going to happen? The story Woodson writes is compelling enough to keep people
reading, who might not want to read this type of work.
Lesbian issues, female bonds, and strong connections of all kinds between human beings come up over and over in Woodson's
work. Notes From the Melanin Sun deals with a young man who's mother is in love with a woman who also happens to be
white. In other stories the connection between young women may or maynot be particularly lesbian in nature.
Maizon (rhymes with raison) and Margaret are two characters who have stories that span several books: Last Summer with
Maizon ( Woodson's first book), Maizon at Blue Hill, and Between Madison and Palmetto. These stories are
about the lives of best friends. They are friends of the soul at this time in their lives, but may or may not end up as lovers.
Only time and their growth will tell. In these stories Woodson has created a community full of wonderful characters. There
is Ms. Dell, a woman of magic and power who fascinates both girls. Will they be chosen to inherit her powers? Or will Lil
Jay, Margaret's baby brother inherit the magic?
Marie and Lena are the main characters in I Hadnt Meant to Tell You This. In Lena the focus centers
on Lena's story, and deals directly with incest, absentee fathers, and daughters dealing with the death of their
mothers. On top of that she weaves in the interracial attraction the girls have for each other. Woodson is one of a small
handful of writers to deal with lower class white girls who even refer to themselves as "white trash." These powerful novels
are not preachy. They also don't offer up any easy solutions and pat happy endings. These are great stories to read.
Woodson's characters are smart and value of education. Woodson always highlights that, but an understanding of the
realities of some peoples lives. I see her as a champion of love as the strongest force in existence, and believe that
she has hopes of human beings ultimately figuring out this whole life thing, and getting it right; finally understanding
the connections between everything, including themselves.