Jacqueline Woodson is a renowned author, a loving mother and an inspiration to budding writers worldwide. Many of her books have won major awards, and she travels the country on book tours. Her works include “Hush,” “If You Come Softly” and “Last Summer with Maizon.” This wonderful wordsmith uses her soft yet powerful voice and amiable attitude to change the world. We caught up with Woodson at the International Book Fair in Detroit.
Q: In many of your books, you address
social issues such as teen pregnancy and racism. Do you feel an obligation to educate your readers on these issues?
A: I don’t write to teach. If I wanted to do that, I’d write textbooks. I write because I want to tell a good story. I write because I have so many questions and the questions make me think. When I sit down to write, I have characters in my head and I think, “I need to tell these stories,” and then the rest comes.
Q: What parts of your life have you incorporated into your books?
A: There is a part of me in every book I write. “Show Way” is a story of my family from my great-great-great-grandma to my daughter. “Sweet, Sweet Memory” is kind of an autobiographical account of my grandfather, who died when I was seven. When I was growing up, my uncle was in prison, and so the experiences of the girl in “Visiting Day” were my experiences. When it’s not physically autobiographical, the stories are emotionally autobiographical, meaning every emotion one of my characters feel is something I’ve felt in my lifetime.
Q: What do you think makes people love your books?
A: I think the thing that brings readers to the story is seeing a part of themselves in the story. I think there’s something about the universality of the books that crosses the lines of race and economic class and gender so that readers coming from all different aspects can see themselves in the people in the story. Even if they haven’t had those specific experiences, I think emotionally, there’s a connection. As a result, readers begin to care deeply about what happens. I love that!
Q: If you could do one thing to change the world, what would it be?
A: I feel like I’m doing it. I feel like writing changes the world. I feel like reading changes the world. Every time I sit down to write, I feel like, “OK Jacqueline, you’re doing what you need to be doing today. How could you be doing it a little better?” I would love for everyone to have the same chances in life regardless of race, gender, family make-up or economics.