Author and Queer Mom Jacqueline Woodson Named a 2020 MacArthur Fellow

Author and Queer Mom Jacqueline Woodson Named a 2020 MacArthur
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Author Jaqueline Woodson yesterday was named one of the winners of this year’s MacArthur “genius grants”—one of at least three queer moms ever to win the accolade.

Jacqueline Woodson - Photo Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Jacqueline Woodson – Photo Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The MacArthur Fellowship, as the grant is officially known, is a “no-strings-attached,” $625,000 grant “for individuals who have shown exceptional creativity in their work and the promise to do more.” The MacArthur Foundation says of Woodson:

Jacqueline Woodson is a writer redefining children’s and young adult literature in works that reflect the complexity and diversity of the world we live in while stretching young readers’ intellectual abilities and capacity for empathy. In nearly thirty publications that span picture books, young adult novels, and poetry, Woodson crafts stories about Black children, teenagers, and families that evoke the hopefulness and power of human connection even as they tackle difficult issues such as the history of slavery and segregation, incarceration, interracial relationships, social class, gender, and sexual identity.

Woodson served as Young People’s Poet Laureate from 2015 to 17 and the National Ambassador for Children’s Literature from 2018 to 19. This past May, she won the Hans Christian Andersen Award, “the highest international distinction given to authors and illustrators of children’s books.” She has also won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world’s largest award for children’s and young adult literature, the Margaret A. Edwards Award “for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature,” and the Children’s Literature Legacy Award (then known as the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award) for ” a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.” Her 2014 Brown Girl Dreaming won the Coretta Scott King Author Award as well as Newbery and Sibert Honors, and her 2005 Coming on Home Soon, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, won a Caldecott Honor.  (For the entire list of her accolades and books, see her website.)

One of her earlier books, the Coretta Scott King Honor book From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun (1995), is about a Black boy whose single mother starts dating a White woman—although not all of her books include queer parents. When I posted about her last May, I shared some quotes from her about her real life and being part of a two-mom family.

At least two other queer moms, to my knowledge, have won MacArthur Awards. Mary Bonauto, a leading attorney in the fight for marriage equality, won one in 2014, and quantum astrophysicist Nergis Mavalvala won one in 2010. That shouldn’t make the rest of us feel bad if we haven’t yet changed the world—sometimes, being a parent is enough in and of itself. Still, I always find it inspiring to know that I have at least one thing in common with these cool folks. I hope they inspire you, too.


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