Red At The Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
November 7, 2019
Dear Mr. Hemingway,
A book doesn’t need to be long to tell a full story. Sometimes the greatest things come in the smallest packages. I just recently read, Red At The Bone by Jacqueline Woodson. Woodson’s story revolves around a teen couple’s unplanned pregnancy and how it impacts three generations of their African American families. Don’t be fooled by the length of this book. This well-crafted story may take you less than 24 hours to read, but it will stay with you for days to come.
Woodson’s story opens up in 2001 with Melody celebrating her 16th birthday at her coming of age ceremony. As her parents and grandparents watch her walk down the stairs, memories of the past begin to surface. How Melody got to this moment in time is slowly revealed through the alternating narratives and timelines of the different characters in the book. Readers will get an intimate look at the lives of Melody’s parents’ (Iris and Aubrey) and grandparents’ (Sabe and Sammy Po’Boy). It is their recollection of the past that helps to tell this story.
Let me just dive in here. Woodson’s story is not as straightforward as it appears. Parenthood, race, poverty, class and ambition are just a few of the issues that help this story take flight. Watching Iris and Aubrey navigate how to raise their daughter made my heart ache. I struggled watching Iris’ journey. I could discern where her drive and need for self-discovery came from, but was awestruck by her lack of maternal genes. Her complexity completely enriched the story for me. On the flip side, I loved Aubrey’s simple take on life and his unconditional love for his daughter. As a parent, I found the grandparents’ point of view to be completely heartfelt (hello tears) and one that I could relate to the most. This is why multigenerational family dramas work for me. Layers and layers of time and experience are what create an emotionally charged story. Each generation builds upon the last. The good, the bad and the ugly pile up from generation to generation giving readers complex characters to unscramble.
Red At The Bone had me really thinking about the impact everyday decisions have on the people around us. Is there a price to pay for being ambitious? We make decisions everyday, often times not understanding our past or where we really came from. Does our past define us or is it merely a piece to our unfinished puzzle? As parents, we want our kids to have a good life. It’s inevitable that our children will encounter struggles in their lifetime. However, knowing this and being prepared for this is not one in the same. So much to ponder with this book.
Red At The Bone is an extraordinary story. Because there is so much to unpack from this tiny package, it makes for a tremendous book club pick. Enjoy this powerful book. I am off to read more by this wonderful author.
Write to you next week Mr. H.
Your Biggest Fan,
P.S. What books have YOU read by Jacqueline Woodson?