Words to Live By: Jacqueline Woodson

This segment features exclusive interviews with authors, artists, and community members.


July 29, 2021

Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson has written dozens of books for children and adults. She is the recipient of a 2020 MacArthur Genius Award, the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA), and Newbery Honor Medal. She served as the Young People’s Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017, and she was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress in 2018–19. Her book, “The Day You Begin” is a Book Harvest favorite; it was the one millionth Book Harvest book harvested in 2018!

Photo from Penguin Random House

Is there a book or genre that stands out in your memory from your youth?

I loved realistic fiction – any book that showed me what it meant to be deeply human fascinated me.

What kind of reader were you as a child?

A very slow one. I read things over and over again to deeply understand them and eventually, to memorize them. I loved books – just the shear physicality of them made me really happy.

What book should everybody read before they turn 18?

I don’t know because I don’t know everyone and would hate to put the wrong book into a reader’s hands and chance turning them off to reading.

What kind of books are on your bookshelf?

Lots of poetry, lots of fiction, a hand full of biographies, a few religious books from my childhood, and lots of cookbooks.

What are you reading currently?

I’m reading a lot about Ida B. Wells.

What is your favorite place to read? Pre- and/or during the pandemic?

I still curl up on my couch with a blanket, a book and now THREE dogs at my feet!

Who is your favorite all-time character from a book?

Ramona Quimby and Cassie Logan.

If you could have dinner with three authors from any period in time, who would you pick?

James Baldwin, Ann Patchett and Rainer Maria Rilke

What are the children in your life currently reading?

My daughter, Toshi is reading Blood Child by Octavia Butler and my son, JL, is at camp and probably is reading Marvel comics (or SOMETHING, I hope!)

Do you have a favorite quote from literature? If so, what is it?

‘Friend, our closeness is this: Wherever you place your feet feel me in the firmness beneath you’ – I may be paraphrasing but that’s from Rumi and just speaks to so much that I believe is true.


We’d like to thank Jacqueline for taking the time to answer our questions! You can read more about her on her website at www.jacquelinewoodson.com.

Get Books!