After reading The Dear One and conversing with classmates who had read other novels by Jacqueline Woodson, several commonalities arose. Primarily, Woodson writes about deep and controversial issues, including sexuality, race, teenage pregnancy, death, alcoholism, divorce, socioeconomic status, crime, and abortion. All of these are have topics in and of themselves, but Woodson often combines them, incorporating more than one into each story. For many, these would be considered controversial literature, for the topics addressed are controversial. What I found through my experience with her work though, is that she incorporates them tastefully, without the controversy being on the forefront. While she may discuss “controversial issues,” when reading her work, it is easy to get lost in the story and forget that she is talking about such controversial issues.
Her work is very successful in the way that she draws the reader in and creates a situation in which the reader cannot put down the book. I would not say that her books are suspenseful, but they are page-turners in which the reader becomes so immersed that he/she can’t put the book down. The characters are all interesting and very three-dimensional, making them very dynamic characters. It is these characters that work to propel the stories forward, in addition to the difficult topics that are addressed. The “controversial issues” create a certain mood in her books, again that draws the reader in. Since the moods are so strong and personal, as readers, we feel connected to the characters and the situations that they may face. Overall, Woodson’s use of the literary elements is very successful and creates wonderful stories that are interesting reads.
I was unaware prior to class discussion that Woodson’s books all contain a bit about her own personal life, but knowing this makes the books seem even less controversial for some reason. To know that the stories are based upon an actual individual’s experience makes them more powerful and relatable. While controversy might be intertwined in Woodson’s novels, with a mature audience, they are definitely doable. I would strongly argue for the inclusion of some of her work in a classroom experience, for her writing is beautiful and her stories are of a length that is easy to handle. The controversial topics spark interesting and meaningful conversations that would be important to have with maturing students. While I would not suggest such novels for use in an elementary school, they would be very appropriate for a middle school English class. At that point in life, many students, if they have not already, will begin experiencing and hearing about some of the deep topics that Woodson’s books touch upon. Therefore, the classroom would be the best environment to begin discussions and sorting through such topics.
Overall, I really enjoyed my “Woodson Experience” and feel as though she has a lot to contribute to the literary world.