We had a fantastic program of Martin Luther King Day events here at Governor’s Academy. Darryl Davis spoke to the entire community in the morning about his lifelong quest to understand racism, and then we broke into groups for various trainings and workshops. After lunch and advisory meetings we came together again for an open mic opportunity where many students chose to read poetry. Their courage and incredible voices impressed me, and reminded me of what a potent medium poetry can be. In the past few years I have been especially moved by a number of Young Adult books written in verse by authors of color that I thought I would share for MLK Day.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
This book won heaps of awards in 2014 and deserved every one of them. The phrasing and use of language is gorgeous, dynamic and paints a picture that stays with me even years later. It is autobiographical about growing up in 1960’s and 70’s, and her beginnings as a reader and writer. Woodson recently became the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
Solo by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess
Blade is about to graduate from high school when faced with many typical teen issues--like girlfriend problems--and some not so typical--like dealing with his alcoholic rock star father. When he learns life altering information he travels to Africa to find out the truth. The language is beautiful, the characters are original, and the story is captivating. Alexander is the author of many books written in verse including The Crossover which won the Newbury Medal.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Reynolds is a poet motivated to “NOT WRITE BORING BOOKS” according to his Amazon bio, and he succeeded with Long Way Down. On his way to possibly avenge his brother’s death, Will endures a fantastical elevator trip that questions his memories and his motivation. Reynolds plays with structure and voice to create something unique while telling a difficult story about loss the cycle of violence. Reynold’s style and the challenging story make this a quick page-turner and good introduction to books in verse for a reader that wants to try something different.
I am also really looking forward to the March release of Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X. This will be Acevedo’s first foray into YA literature, but her award winning slam poetry style and feminist slant seem a sure bet for a great read. We already have it in the cart and I for one can’t wait to get my hands on it.