Jacqueline Woodson Found Out She Was Censored from Judy Blume

Jacqueline Woodson Found Out She Was Censored from Judy Blume


-How are you?
-I’m good. How are you? -I’m so happy to have you here.
I’m wonderful. So, I want to ask
about the book. This is a book that is written
from different perspectives. -Mm-hmm.
-It also deals with some moments of great
historical significance, like the Tulsa
race massacre and 9/11. What was the impetus for putting
those things in the book? -Well, I think those were two
very traumatic experiences in our country and also
in the existence of black lives. And so when I started writing
the book, one of the reasons I wanted to put the Tulsa
race massacre in there was I hadn’t heard of it until I
was in my 20s, and it was huge. So, the idea that it wasn’t
in any of my books, fiction or nonfiction,
and that this thing happened that changed the narrative
of the black experience was really important for me
to try to figure out how to write fiction around it,
to bring it to light. -And it’s really nice
when things like that, moments like that,
find their way into art because otherwise, unless
you’re reading history books, you miss them entirely.
-Yeah. -You have written 21 novels. You write from different
perspectives of race, sexuality, gender, age. What is it
about writing that you — or, what is it about your
writing that it becomes wider when you use
those different perspectives? -That’s such a good question. I think I bore easily.
[ Laughter ] You know, I get bored easily,
and the idea of just staying in one perspective or even
writing for just one age group, I would lose my mind,
and I think that there’s so many important stories
at every age in our lives, so I feel like I want
to tell them, and I want to tell them
from all points of view. I also write realistic fiction. So, the idea
of writing realistic fiction from just one single perspective
would bore me, so I know you would be bored and the rest of the world
would, too. So I have to move around a lot. -I think it’s important not
to have boring titles, either. “Red at the Bone” is gripping. Do you come up —
When does the titles find you, or where do you find the titles? -Sometimes I know the titles even before I begin
writing the book. And for “Red at the Bone,”
it took some time to get to ’cause I had
to kind of figure out what the story
was trying to say and how it was saying it
and what did it mean to be having all these different
characters telling this story and what were they getting at. And, you know, it hit me
that they were all becoming in some way.
They were all red at the bone. They were all
still not quite done yet. And I think that’s a question,
as humans, we ask ourselves all the time,
“Where are we in this moment, and where will we be
when we leave this world?” And until we leave the world,
we are all very red at the bone. -You had some —
over the course of your — course of your career —
excuse me — in all these different books,
you have had some censorship. You’ve had books
that have been challenged. Can you explain
what you mean by that? -It means
that people don’t like them and don’t want other people
to read them. -Yeah.
[ Laughter ] And how does that manifest? How do they try to stop
other people from reading them? -Well, they take them off
of school library shelves. They take them
out of classrooms. I remember, I didn’t even know
I was challenged or censored. I got a call from Judy Blume, and she wanted me to be
in an anthology. -By the way, let me just say,
as far as name-dropping goes, that’s as good as it gets.
[ Laughter ] That’s a really good one.
Yeah. -Imagine picking up your phone and her being
on the other end of it. -Yeah.
-Right? And she was doing
an anthology called “The Places
That I Never Meant To Be,” and she asked me to be in it because it was an anthology
for censored writers. And I’m like,
“I’ve never been censored,” and she’s like,
“Oh, yes, you have.” [ Laughter ]
And it was wild, ’cause you don’t know it
all the time, right? I don’t know that people
in maybe Idaho aren’t reading my books and that
someone sent a memo around to get all
the Jacqueline Woodson books off the shelves or whatever
or this particular title. I don’t know until someone
tells me or tweets about it. -Yeah. Well, that’s scary to
think you feel very comfortable that your art’s out there,
and then you’re finding out that it’s being slowly
taken away from people. -Well, you know, that’s all
you have to do is censor a book to have people running for it.
-Yeah. -So…
[ Laughter ] -Right.
That’s the jackpot right there. Well, let me —
on that case, let me just say, no one should read this garbage! [ Laughter ] You have two children.
-I do. -Do they want your help —
Having a writer as a mom, do they want your help
when they write? -Um, one would think they would. My daughter
is applying for colleges now. -Yeah.
-And she basically is, like, “Mommy, do not read
my college essays.” And I’m there with my pen just,
like, “Let me at it, Toshi. Please let me at it.”
[ Laughter ] But, no.
They kind of like me to stay far away from it,
but they — You know, and they’re
pretty down low about me being Jacqueline Woodson
as their mom, so… -How do you know
they’re down low? ‘Cause I guess a lot of their
friends have probably read your books because, again, you’ve written for so
many different ages. -Yeah. My daughter had,
at her high school, one of my books was assigned. So, then,
she was really mortified. [ Laughter ]
But, I remember when she was — she was in middle school,
and her friend was holding her cellphone, and I texted her,
and her friend’s like, “Jacqueline Woodson texted you?
You know Jacqueline Woodson?” [ Laughter ]
And she came home, and she was so excited
to tell me this story. I’m like, “Really?
You’re that down low that they don’t even know
I’m your mom?” [ Laughter ] -Also, just enter it
in your phone as “Mom.” [ Laughter ] That’ll avoid
that problem right there. [ Laughter ] People see my phone and they’re
like, “You know my mom?” [ Laughter ] I want to congratulate you. You won a very serious award —
The Astrid Lindgren award. -Yes.
-And this is a lot of money. It’s half a million dollars.
-Yes. -And can you talk about
what you’re gonna do with that money
and what the award is for? -The award is given
by the Swedish government. So, I had to go to Sweden,
and it’s given in honor of Astrid Lindgren,
who, in Sweden, is actually on their money.
-Yeah. -She’s on the money, literally, and so you go there,
and you get it. And I’m using the money
to start a writing colony for — an artist colony for artists of
color, for visual artists, poets and writers and composers
in Brewster, New York. [ Cheers and applause ]
-That’s wonderful. -Thank you.
-That is really, really cool. Hey, thank you so much
for being here. -Thank you.
-It’s been just a delight to talk to you.
Congratulations on the book. It’s wonderful.

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  1. The only people who need to be censored are those who say that they don't like something, so nobody else is even allowed to see it, and decide for themselves.

  2. Please educate white people…..we have Donald Trump if we dont…dear Lord. Plus i am in texas and only knew of the Tulsa riots was i took a AA class in HS in the 90s…aint seen it since.

  3. Jacqueline Woodson's book "Each Kindness" moved me deeply. I want to read more of her work, she's a brilliant author. Glad to see her on Seth Meyers!

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