Posts Tagged ‘Jacqueline Woodson’

I have long wanted to read a Jacqueline Woodson book and I finally got around to reading her latest ‘Red at the Bone‘. I read this for ‘Black History Month’ alongwith ‘WOC Reads‘ and ‘The Bookdog Says‘. We had such a fascinating discussion on it.

Melody is a teenager who is celebrating her sixteenth birthday. When she walks into the party, we see her parents, we see her grandparents, but things aren’t what they seem. And soon we know why.

At this point, I’m in a dilemma. Should I summarize the plot and analyze it and reveal its secrets? Or should I give some vague clues to it which will entice the reader to go and pick the book and read it herself? After a lot of thought, I decided on the second one. So here goes.

Red at the Bone‘ is a story told from different perspectives. Each chapter has a different narrator or point of view and we see the story unfold through different eyes. Along the way, the story explores different themes, love, family, race, exploring one’s sexual identity. As the story moves along we get deep into the twentieth century, into history, into dark deeds and heartbreaking happenings, we meet people rising from the ashes and people trying their best but not able to rise. It is a haunting story, sometimes beautiful, sometimes moving, sometimes heartbreaking. There is so much packed in the story, that sometimes it is unbelievable, how such a slim book can carry so many heavy themes. It doesn’t feel that all these complex themes are forced into the story like we might do in the last minute into our overstuffed travel suitcase, but it feels like they are a natural part of the story.

We meet a fascinating cast of characters along the way, Melody and her best friend Malcolm, Iris and Aubrey and Jam, Sabe and Po’Boy and CathyMarie. We also meet Baby Benjamin who is beautiful and who is too good for this world. On the way, Jacqueline Woodson sprinkles literary stars in our way – Paul Laurence Dunbar and bell hooks and Audre Lorde and August Wilson.

I loved ‘Red at the Bone‘. It is a beautiful coming-of-age story, a beautiful love story, a moving exploration of identity. And many other things. I can’t wait to read more books by Jacqueline Woodson.

I’ll leave you with three of my favourite passages from the book.

“Prettiest baby you’d ever want to see. For the few weeks he was with us, he’d open his eyes and look right at you – like an old soul. Like it was somebody from the past trying to tell you something.”

“Guess that’s where the tears come from, knowing that there’s so much in this great big world that you don’t have a single ounce of control over. Guess the sooner you learn that, the sooner you’ll have one less heartbreak in your life. Oh Lord. Some evenings I don’t know where the old pains end and the new ones begin. Feels like the older you get the more they run into one long, deep aching.”

“That’s why I don’t buy it when people say children don’t know. That they’re too young to understand. If they can walk and talk, they can understand. You look at how much growing a baby does in the first few years of its life – crawling, walking, talking, laughing. The brain just changing and changing. You can’t tell me all of it’s not becoming a part of their blood. Their memory.”

Have you read ‘Red at the Bone‘? What do you think about it?

Read Full Post »