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Author Study: Jacqueline Amanda Woodson
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10 Personal Facts About Jacqueline Woodson

  • Born February 12, 1963 in Columbus Ohio.
  • Her family were Jehovahs Witnesses.
  • Her parents were divorced.
  • She moved to Greenville, South Carolina to live with her grandmother.
  • Started first grade in Brooklyn, New York.
  • She has been to all 50 states and several countries.
  • Her favorite food is Pizza.
  • She has one daughter named for famous singer Toshi Reagon.
  • Her favorite color is blue.
  • She's five feet ten inches and is still the shortest person in her family.
  • She loves to tackle controversial topics in her work.

These facts all come from her official website:


Jacqueline Woodson: Quick Writing Facts
  • Always loved English, and has always loved to write.
  • As a writer she is proficient at multitasking (works on two or three books at once).
  • She never ever gets writer's block.
  • She loves to put  multiple controversial issues into  every story.
  • Has a great understanding of the need for connection.
  • Likes to deal with that feeling of loneliness vs aloneness.
  • Understands being on the outside of things.
  • Uses Inter-racial themes wherever possible.
  • Writes about parents who are withdrawn  from the action, or caught up in their own worlds.
  • Deals with Lesbian issues.
  • The importance of family runs through her work. 
  • Highlights the value of education,  but understands the realities of some peoples lives.
  • Current teen problems run through her stories. 
  • Uses Simple and direct language to tell her stories.
  • Characters are well-drawn.
  • She is a champion of love as the strongest force in the universe.


Jacqueline Amanda Woodson was born February 12, 1963 in Columbus Ohio to a family of Jehovahs Witnesses. Her parents were divorced shortly after her birth and she, her brother and her sister,moved to Greenille, South Carolina to live with her grandmother.

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"

Black brothers
Black sisters
All of them were great,
No fear,
No fright,
But  a willingness to fight
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
And freedom too
He fought for me
And probably you.

(Saalfield, 583)



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. 




Here are the links
                                    to Jacqueline Woodsons books as she has listed them on her
official website.
picture books
middle grade titles
ya titles
Other Links
Jacqueline woodson online
Girlfriends Magazine Biography written by Carla Williams.
Brief bio on Woodson here.
bio of JW
Awards J.W. has Received over the years:
Coretta Scott King 2001 Miracle's Boys
Notable children's books 1995 I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This
Corretta Scott King Honor Books From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun
Won the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Excellence in Fiction.




Saalfield, Catherine. 1993. "Jacqueline Woodson" in Contemporary Lesbian Writers of the United States:

A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook. (Ed. by) Sandra Pollack and Denise D. Knight. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.


Woodson, Jacqueline.  1997.  The House You Pass On the Way. New York: Delacorte



Woodson, Jacqueline. 2002.  Last Summer With Maizon. Penguin. Ages 9-12

ISBN: 0698119290


Woodson, Jacqueline.  2002.  Hush. Putnam Pub Group. ISBN: 0142500496

Young Adult work.


Woodson, Jacqueline. 1994.  Maizon at Blue Hill. Yearing Books. Young Adult.

ASIN: 0440408997


Woodson, Jacqueline.  Ill. by Earl B. Lewis.  2001. The Other Side. G. P. Putnam

and Sons.


Woodson, Jacqueline.   2002 reprint. Miracle's Boys. Putnam. Ages 9-12

ISBN: 0399231137*


Woodson, Jacqueline. 2003.  Locomotion. New York: G.P. Putnams Sons.


Woodson, Jacqueline. 1995.  I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This. Lauraleaf. Young

Adult ISBN: 0440219604.


Woodson, Jacqueline. 2000. If You Come Softly. Putnam. Ages 9-12 ISBN:



Woodson, Jacqueline.  2000.  Lena. Lauraleaf. Ages 9-12 ISBN: 0440226694


Woodson, Jacqueline. 2000.  Ill. by Floyd Cooper.  Sweet, Sweet Memory. Jump at

the Sun.   Ages 4-8 0786802413.


Woodson, Jacqueline.  2002. Visiting Day.  Scholastic Paperbacks. Ages 4-8.

ISBN: 0590400053.


Woodson, Jacqueline.  Ill. by Diane Greenseid. 1998.  We Had a Picnic This

Sunday Past.  Disney Press. ISBN: 0786802421.


Woodson, Jacqueline.  1995. Between Madison and Palmetto. Yearling. Young Adult.

ASIN: 0440410622.


Woodson, Jacqueline.  1996. The Dear One. Delacorte Press.


Woodson, Jacqueline. 1995.  Autobiography of a Family Photo: A Novel. E. P.

Dutton. ISBN: 0525937218


Woodson, Jacqueline. 2002.  Ill. by Jon J. Muth.  Our Gracie Aunt. Hyperion

Press. Ages 4-8. ISBN: 0786806206.


Woodson, Jacqueline. 1995.  From The Notebooks Of Melanin Sun. Scholastic Books.

Young Adults. ISBN: 0590458809.