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Jacqueline Woodson’s ‘The Other Side and ‘Show Way’ Go to BAM



“Show Way” describes terrible things, like children being sold and then taken away from their mothers. The task, Robinson said, was to face that directly, while also portraying the love that Woodson describes in her forebears’ lives. “For young people to be able to come and see a story that is celebrating all the positive things about family and love, Black love and Black joy, that is what this show is all about,” he said.

Woodson noted that both stories emphasize persistence and survival, messages that her books often underscore. She believes in the necessity of communicating that to young audiences. “The most important thing is that we know that we’ve survived something hard and that we can survive whatever is hard now, too,” she said.

Woodson doesn’t know how many more books she will write for young people. She began writing because she never saw herself represented in the characters she read about. But American publishing has changed, in no small part because of Woodson’s contribution, and children’s books by and about people of color are no longer so rare. “I came into this out of aggravation, like, ‘How dare this world not put my narrative out there!’” she said. “Then I did that.”

Yet she is mindful that children’s literature now faces new challenges, particularly the banning of books. “We’re living in a time where history is being erased, especially the stories of the history of Black and brown people,” she said. “Our country is trying to say that these stories are dangerous and destructive.” Books are one way to teach that history. Performance, experienced in community, among both strangers and loved ones, is another. “It opens up conversations and it creates a safe way to have conversations,” she said.

As she finishes her Kennedy Center tenure, she is working on adapting her children’s book “The Day You Begin” for PBS. “Brown Girl Dreaming” could, she believes, become a musical. And there are more possibilities.

“I have all my books displayed,” Woodson said. “I’m looking at them wondering which one would I do next.”

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