An Extraordinary New Novel About The Influence Of History On A Contemporary African American Family, From The New York Times Bestselling And National Book Award Winning Author Of Another Brooklyn And Brown Girl DreamingTwo Families From Different Social Classes Are Joined Together By An Unexpected Pregnancy And The Child That It Produces Moving Forward And Backward In Time, With The Power Of Poetry And The Emotional Richness Of A Narrative Ten Times Its Length, Jacqueline Woodson S Extraordinary New Novel Uncovers The Role That History And Community Have Played In The Experiences, Decisions, And Relationships Of These Families, And In The Life Of This Child As The Book Opens In , It Is The Evening Of Sixteen Year Old Melody S Birthday Celebration In Her Grandparent S Brooklyn Brownstone Watched Lovingly By Her Relatives And Friends, Escorted By Her Father To The Soundtrack Of Prince, She Wears A Special, Custom Made Dress But The Event Is Not Without Poignancy Sixteen Years Earlier, That Very Dress Was Measured And Sewn For A Different Wearer Melody S Mother, For Her Own Sixteenth Birthday Party And A Celebration Which Ultimately Never Took Place Unfurling The History Of Melody S Parents And Grandparents To Show How They All Arrived At This Moment, Woodson Considers Not Just Their Ambitions And Successes But Also The Costs, The Tolls They Ve Paid For Striving To Overcome Expectations And Escape The Pull Of History As It Explores Sexual Desire And Identity, Ambition, Gentrification, Education, Class And Status, And The Life Altering Facts Of Parenthood, Red At The Bone Most Strikingly Looks At The Ways In Which Young People Must So Often Make Long Lasting Decisions About Their Lives Even Before They Have Begun To Figure Out Who They Are And What They Want To Be To say that Jacqueline Woodson is gifted story teller who writes beautifully almost feels like faint praise The story begins with Melody, celebrating her sixteenth birthday, walking down the stairs in her grandparents brownstone, reaching a milestone in this present moment moving toward her future In alternating narratives, moving back and forth in time, Woodson reflects on the pasts of Melody s mother Iris, her father Aubrey, her grandmother Sabe and grandfather Sammy Po Boy and the things that happened to get us to Melody s birthday celebration A past reflecting how sixteen years ago, Iris, pregnant with Melody didn t walk down those steps but could walk away from her little girl, a heartbreaking past of Aubrey s childhood as he remembers it he remembers hunger, or the first time he realizes he s poor A horrific past of racism , an attack on Sabe s mother s hair dressing shop, which will forever shape her attitude on money and keeping it safe from fire A past and present beautiful love story of Sabe and Po Boy While this book is short in length, it is full of heart, hurt, history, realistic emotions, and a depth of love that is visible from Melody s first step down that staircase and love that resonates when Melody takes another step into the future at the end of the book This is the third book I have read by Woodson and another reason why she is on my list of favorite authors I read this with Esil and Diane and as always a pleasure to discuss our thoughts I received an advanced copy of this book from Riverhead Books through Edelweiss. I loved it Loved everything about this book The gorgeous prose The way in just a relatively few pages, Woodsen managed to flesh out her characters, making them autentic people The themes explored Themes of mother, daughter relationships, teenage pregnant, ambition, fatherhood and sexual identity The many different emotions she manages to provoke, emotions that changed as the story progressed How young people make decisions about their lives, things that will affect them in the future, not realizing what that entails So many issues are covered, yet done so well that it never felt crowded Life and death, lives lived Some give up for love, some are not able to give enough I loved it because it felt authentic, real Something about memory It takes you back to where you were, and just lets you be there for a while A much better read for my reading buddies, Angela, Lise and myself.ARC from Netgalley and Riverhead books. What a beautiful little jewel of a book Red at the Bone is told from the perspectives of five members of a somewhat unconventional family At the centre of the story is Iris, who was 16 when she had her daughter Melodie The three other family members are Iris parents and Melodie s father There is no linearity the story Slowly, through different layers, we get a bit information about what happened to the characters and mostly a strong sense of their very distinct personalities The end is terribly sad and beautiful at the same time I m feeling a bit tongue by this one Read it It s short I definitely have to read books by this author This was another buddy read with Diane and Angela It than made up for the mediocre book we just read together Thanks also to Edelweiss and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy. 2 6 19A sincere thank you to my fam at Riverhead books for sending this one over I just can t understand how someone can write so flawlessly Completely dazed Woodson has a unique talent of being able to shape such interesting and rich characters With ease she shift between past and present of the people s lives, threading together one complete family history A history that has been marked by unexpected joy, pain and discovery This is my first read from Woodson and I am absolutely hooked Will be reviewing this on my channel You can find me onYoutube Instagram Twitter Tumblr Website Jacqueline Woodson is a NATIONAL TREASURE This is one of the very few books that has made me break down into no holds barred ugly crying at the end Nuanced, devastating, and yet empowering and hopeful, this is a perfect read. Because if a body s to be remembered, someone has to tell its story This is one of the many quotes I highlighted in RED AT THE BONE, this beautiful, gut punch of a novel by Jacqueline Woodson A piece of the highest literary craftsmanship, each chapter alternates character, and each character s voice is so real I felt like they were talking directly to me, or that each character was telling me their story instead of one author writing it I felt intimately connected with everyone in this family and shared their heartache, their joy, and all the in between moments This is the perfect novel to fall into and lose yourself, to get completely swept up in, and resurface only after reaching the last page. If a body is to be remembered, someone has to tell its story.Tell a story of bodies is exactly what Jaqueline Woodson has done in red at the bone Once again she has proven a master storyteller and a writer with the utmost ability to bring her characters to life and make you feel everything that they are going through, the love, the sadness, the hate, the life, and the death She beautifully weaves this tapestry of a novel about one family and their lives past, present and future I was left shattered yet hopeful, reminiscent of a classic Toni Morrison work, Woodson has once again outdone herself with another novel sure to be worthy of a national book award honors..The novel starts at Melody s coming of age ceremony at the age of sixteen with her family and supporting cast all there, her Mother Iris and Father Aubrey who had her at that same young age of sixteen, and Iris parents Sabe and Po Boy Then from there the novel twists and turns changing narrations to and from each of these characters explaining how they got to this moment, how they met each other, how they fell in love, struggled, the losses they endured, the sacrifices they made, and most of all how they will forever be simply family Each character is told with flawless detail that it s easy to become so attached and so fond of everyone, your heart aches when theirs does, you experience their joys, you become one with this book In such a short novel 200 pages I was completely encapsulated and felt so much for this family, I had to stop reading in public a few times because unexpected turns led to very strong emotions This will be in my top 10 if not top 5 favorites of this year, and shows Woodson progressing from her already amazing list of books, taking her skill and art to the next level following the success of Another Brooklyn Because maybe this was what love felt like a constant ache, an endless need Maybe this was love wanting someone with all the senses Red at the Bone, Jacqueline WoodsonAfter poring over Another Brooklyn when it released years ago, I rushed at the opportunity to read Jacqueline Woodson s new novel, Red at the Bone, a tale defined by the sensitive and difficult nature of black motherhood, sexuality, and the painful lengths we go to starve our bodies of its most natural desires And what a beautifully nuanced novel this is, indeed, one that supports Woodson s reputation as a mentor of black history and a healer of black youth, queer and all.Dawning in 2001, Red at the Bone takes form through lush, time traveling passages, though the heart of the story involves Melody, who has just turned 16 But to know Melody is to know the story of her parents, Iris and Aubrey, and that of theirs all of whom, on the cusp of Melody s womanhood, made difficult choices and trajectories to bring her into existence.Woodson writes of love and oppression with soul stripping honesty, and that is totally evident in Red at the Bone, a neighbor if not a sister story of Another Brooklyn I wept reading this family s story, not just for the sorrows of my mother, her mother, hers and so forth whose voices were as loud and clear as ever in these characters but for the tribe of black youth forced to pin down their urges out of fear and impossibility Let Woodson break your heart just one time, I promise it ll be worth it If you liked my review, feel free to follow me parisperusing on Instagram. This incredibly powerful gift should come with a disclaimer potent and brilliantly shattering Wow I had to decompress after finishing I couldn t put it down from the moment I started and needed to rest before even considering moving away from the story and experience I ve never read such concentrated passages, and completely in awe of her heart bending, and totally effective prose This September, please take a big, deep breath and dive in without even fully knowing how deep this will take you.Galley borrowed from the publisher. If anyone were to ask me what the point of literature is, I would direct them to this book to find the answer I read it in a single sitting while on a four hour flight Had the book been longer, I likely would not have been able to finish it but there s an equal possibility that I would have resisted getting off the plane until I was done reading I can imagine that ending well.Woodson s novel immediately before this, Another Brooklyn, had a powerful effect on me Never before had I felt myself being drawn so vividly into the mind and soul of another person I naturally assumed it would be a unique experience, that any future book by Woodson might impress and move me but never reach the extraordinary heights of the book I was wrong Red at the Bone is every bit equal perhaps amazing to say even superior to the earlier novel To say that reading it was astonishing would be to miss than half of the experience, for reading is far too inadequate a word Everything in the book is a revelation We live and feel our way through it s pages The circumstances and plot elements feel real The characters are brought to vivid life They are solid and complicated, admirable and flawed, utterly beyond simple categorization Take Iris, for example smart, ambitious, sure of her future, manipulative, and pregnant as a teenager Easy to admire for her gifts, but equally easy to judge as selfish she leaves her infant daughter with her parents and the baby s father, and has as little contact as possible thereafter, leaving her resentful daughter to address her by her name rather than as Mom And yet before the book is done, Iris will show herself to be so much than we think Woodson s description of Iris s labor and delivery might give a sense of what I mean In the digital ARC which has numerous distracting errors the dialogue is presented in italics It begins with Iris s experience of pain No one believed her screaming The doctor saying over and over again, It s just pressure you re feeling, the epidural is taking care of the pain She wanted to curse him out, stuff his body inside of hers so that he could feel this fire of a birth Iris wanted to remind the doctor that his old white ass had never given birth so how the fuck would he knowFinally, the baby comes She s a beauty, the doctor said And then Melody was here in the world, red and wrinkled and crying Give her to me She s mine But as the nurse quickly wiped mucus and blood from the baby, then placed her tiny warm body against Iris s chest, the baby s eyes squinted open then shut again as though against bright light Or maybe against Iris s own confused gaze Iris felt a jolt of something, something electric and scary running between the two of them Fuck, Iris whispered If she were older, she would have been able to ask the bigger question What the fuck have I done Reading Red at the Bone, we discover at the same time Iris does what she had done, and what might seem at first easy to condemn by the end of the book becomes infinitely complicated.Each character has similar depth Each has hopes, dreams, emotional baggage, and disappointments Each is shaped by forces outside themselves, by race, history, class, and the weight of broken dreams Sabe, Iris s mother, is loving, serious, strong she bears within her the trauma of her mother s miraculous escape from the 1921 attack on Tulsa s thriving black community by a white mob Fearful that something like this might happen again, Sabe hides money and gold in the house so it won t be taken from her Aubrey, Melody s father, is capable but unambitious As a youth he was slow to become aware of how poor he and his mother were, to see how much there was to his mother with her coarse hands and regular nightly absences than he had thought His desperate hunger for love, and his fear that it will be torn away from him, shape his every move The other characters are equally solid, equally fully realized, equally capable of surprising the reader So much of the power in Red at the Bone comes from Woodson s way of letting her characters fully reveal themselves over time, so that the reader is obliged to judge them at one point, then forced to reconsider those judgments later Red at the Bone shares its wisdom with honesty, tenderness, love, and, ultimately, hope The world outside the characters walls is seen from time to time the crack epidemic of the 80s, the breakdown of black neighborhoods, 9 11 but their significance in the book lies in how the characters respond to them For all the weight of its subject matter, I feel obliged to note, there is lots of humor, both raucus and refined, always about than itself Late in the book, for example, Sabe reminisces about reading poetry to her husband, Po Boy I tell you, something about the poetry of Dunbar just made us laugh and laugh Black folks trying to be all proper and speak like white folks and all Used to get Po Boy laughing when I read Dunbar s poems just the way the man intended them to be read Used to make him go You see how my Sabe do with those poems Talented as she wants to be We both loved how he wrote He was truly saying, Can we just be who we are, people Can we just take off our masks and laugh and dance and eat and talk But then he has the nerve to have that name Paul Laurence Dunbar like you need to say it with your pinky pointing out Hmph Made me and Po Boy shake our heads at all that our people are. Just a few short sentences, yet they tell us so much about the characters and the world they inhabit Other humorous moments are often sharper, biting, but they are always revealing.This is one of those very rare books that make me wish GR had an option beyond 5 stars, an off the charts rating Red at the Bone touched me in too many ways to articulate As my flight began its descent into Balti, I found myself struggling to process the complicated emotions the book elicited from me I hurriedly typed into my iPad a summary thought What we live, what we love,what we lose, what we regret, and the lessons that take a lifetime to learn Red at the Bone is all these and Jacqueline Woodson is a miracle worker.
- 208 pages
- Red at the Bone
- Jacqueline Woodson
- 19 January 2017 Jacqueline Woodson