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Red at the Bone: A Novel Paperback – Sept. 1 2020

4.3 out of 5 stars 2,788 ratings

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Praise for Red at the Bone:

“Readers mourning the death of Toni Morrison will find comfort in Sabe's magnificent cadences as she rues her daughter's teen pregnancy, which flies in the face of the lessons her mama ingrained in her from the Tulsa race riots of 1921 — the massacre by whites that drove her family north and taught them to vigilantly safeguard their social and economic gains. …With Red at the Bone, Jacqueline Woodson has indeed risen — even further into the ranks of great literature.” – NPR

“Occasionally mentioned, and never forgotten, is the fact that Iris’s family moved to Brooklyn from the South in 1921 after white people in Tulsa burned down black people’s schools, restaurants and beauty shops. It’s not just that the past informs the present, nor is it just that the past isn’t past; it’s also the case that the past has to be remembered, has to be kept alive.” –
The New York Times

Red at the Bone is a nuanced portrait of shifting family relationships, jumping back and forth in time and moving bet­ween the characters’ different voices… Underneath it all runs the vexed and violent history of the US. Sabe’s family lost everything in the Tulsa massacre of 1921…Stories may be hidden, but they will come to light.” ­– Financial Times

"Beautiful … a generous, big-hearted novel." – Brit Bennett, #1 NYT bestselling author of
The Vanishing Half
"Profoundly moving ... With its abiding interest in the miracle of everyday love, 
Red at the Bone is a proclamation."  —The New York Times Book Review

"A spectacular novel that only [a] legend can pull off, one that wrenches us to confront the life-altering and life-pulling and life-subsuming facts of history, of love, of expectations, of status, of parenthood." – Ibram X. Kendi in The Atlantic
"A treasure awaits readers who encounter
 Red at the Bone….A universal American tale of striving, failing, then trying again." —Time

"Sublime….This short novel contains immense empathy for each member of its wide ensemble. Thus, as Woodson covers nearly a century, from the 1921 Tulsa race massacre to 9/11, her grasp of history’s weight on individuals — and definitive feel for borough life, past and present — proves to be as emotionally transfixing as ever." —
Entertainment Weekly

“A true spell of a book, Woodson is one of those rare writers who make you feel like you can do anything, should do anything. The story of family and young love are timeless human stories—but through Woodson’s sentences, this novel offers us new ways to think and embody our burning world and, perhaps most mercifully, permission to dream—and to change.”—Ocean Vuong, 
New York Times bestselling author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
Red at the Bone is a narrative steeped in truth...Thank you, Ms. Woodson, for leading me home." —The Washington Post

"Red at the Bone is a slim novel that has all the heft of a family saga but reads like poetry... Woodson nailed the ending, leaving me thoroughly satisfied and awed by her talent." – Lynn Neary, NPR

"Lyrical, dreamy, and brimming with compassion for her characters." –Esquire

"[Red at the Bone] subtly explores the ways in which desire can reconfigure our best-laid plans, and its expansive outlook suggests how easily, in African-American life, hard-won privileges can be dissolved."—The New Yorker

"Vast emotional depth, rich historical understanding and revelatory pacing ... Woodson draws the profound magic out of the ordinary. She is unmatched in her ability to evoke emotion."—
The San Francisco Chronicle
"A remarkable, intergenerational harmony of voices. At its center is hope for both individual and hereditary survival."—
USA Today
"Gorgeous, moving…A story of love—romantic and familial—and alienation, grief and triumph, disaster and survival."
Red at the Bone breaks down the ways in which parenthood changes people for both better and worse and what it means to find your true identity." —Parade 
"Slender miracle of a novel [that] performs a magic trick with time….Woodson skips back and forth between the decades so deftly that it feels like it all happens in a heartbeat." —
Family Circle

About the Author

Jacqueline Woodson is the bestselling author of more than two dozen award-winning books, including the 2016 New York Times–bestselling National Book Award finalist for adult fiction, Another Brooklyn. Among her many accolades, Woodson is a four-time National Book Award finalist, a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a two-time NAACP Image Award Winner, and a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner. Her New York Times–bestselling memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, received the National Book Award in 2014. Woodson is also the 2018–2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and the recipient of the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and the 2018 Children’s Literature Legacy Award. In 2015, she was named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. She lives with her family in New York.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (Sept. 1 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0525535284
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0525535287
  • Item weight ‏ : ‎ 181 g
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 13.03 x 1.5 x 20.32 cm
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.3 out of 5 stars 2,788 ratings

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Jacqueline Woodson's memoir BROWN GIRL DREAMING won the 2014 National Book Award and was a NY Times Bestseller. Her novel, ANOTHER BROOKLYN, was a National Book Award finalist and an Indie Pick in 2016. Among her many awards, she the recipient of the Kurt Vonnegut Award, four Newbery Honors, two Coretta Scott King Award, and the Langston Hughes Medal. Jacqueline is the author of nearly thirty books for young people and adults including EACH KINDNESS, IF YOU COME SOFTLY, LOCOMOTION and I HADN'T MEANT TO TELL YOU THIS. She served as Young People's Poet Laureate from 2014-2016, was a fellow at The American Library in Paris, occasionally writes for the New York Times, is currently working on more books and like so many writers - lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
2,788 global ratings

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5.0 out of 5 stars Stellar Fiction
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 9, 2020
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Anika May
5.0 out of 5 stars Raw. Honest. Heart-breaking. A must-read!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 28, 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars Raw. Honest. Heart-breaking. A must-read!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 28, 2020
Jacqueline Woodson and her magnificent ability to convey so much heart in just 196 pages is a read I’ll never forget.

Red at the Bone dives into this family’s mosaic history, from 1921 to 2001. The book begins at Melody's coming of age ceremony. She’s 16 years old, surrounded by friends and family, and making her way into the world. The ceremony is a treasured part of her family’s history, taking place in the home of her middle-class grandparents. But Melody's mother, never reached her imperative celebration. And the reason why has affected three generations of family members.

Jacqueline Woodson’s writing is remarkably powerful. In my opinion, there’s no other way to interpret it. Her words carry weight and emotion but are formatted in short and smooth sentences. Despite its length, the novel doesn’t feel like a quick read. It has a balanced depth as the reader comes to understand the history, mindset, and make-up of Melody’s family. We get to see her grandparents’ journey, her parents’ journey, and the beginning of hers through a variety of African-American perspectives.

Red at the Bone highlights the outlooks of race, class, love, parenthood, desire, and freedom. It’s impossible not to be swept up by the poetic plot. The chapters read like an emotional song, with its compelling highs and crushing lows. It has both joy and mourning, success and misery. Each verse has its own level of passion and intensity, which changes and reshapes as the family does. Every character has their own battle, whether it appears as they grow into adulthood or later in life. And as the story moves back and forth in time, the reader discovers what events shaped its narrators.

The novel teaches us how impactful our decisions can be. It may be short in length but is rich in wisdom. And it comes through experiences of the characters, as well as their relationships with others. For example, Sabe’s memory of the Tulsa race massacre, Aubrey’s fierce love for Iris, and Iris’ longing for education and liberty. Every ordeals trickle down to Melody’s perspective in 2001. It’s a vibrant tapestry that can be explored over, and over, and over.

Everything about Red at the Bone is impeccable. The spotless prose, the authentic characters, and the diversified presentation of each of its themes. It never feels overcrowded, sluggish, or insignificant.

Anika |
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4.0 out of 5 stars Satisfyingly complex but didn't engage me on a personal level
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 27, 2021
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Raw
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 22, 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Raw
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 22, 2020
RED AT THE BONE begins in 2001, as 16-year-old Melody enters her coming of age ceremony in her grandparents' Brooklyn brownstone, wearing a white dress made to measure for someone else. The story moves back and forward in time, tracing the history of her parents & grandparents, showing how the threads of family pull towards the present.

My favourite moments were the two-handers: the private moments shared between two characters & the perspective through which Jacqueline Woodson chooses to convey the intimacies of these personal experiences. The tenderness of a first sexual experience described from the male perspective; a nursing mother's experience of arousal; a Black mother's experience of childbirth and encounters with medical professionals; Black queer sexual awakening; the earliest childhood experiences (the layering of memory here almost reminded me of Sister Night's nostalgia trip and hearing her grandmother's voice echo through her memories of William - Watchmen HBO ep 6); the significance of that white dress. In this novel, pleasure and pain are tightly wound together; Woodson poignantly captures the ecstasy of being.

Like a lot of the books I've read recently, this sparked my interest in what we pass down through the family line and what is inherited - be it mannerism, temperament, belief - how trauma is engraved in our ancestry and woven through the generations. Sabe and Tulsa will be on my mind for a while.

There were a few moments when I wanted a little more from the narrative, but stories like this are making me hungry to read.
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Judith Jesp
4.0 out of 5 stars Not all life shattering experiences are negative
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 19, 2020
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