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Red at the Bone cover art

Red at the Bone

Written by: Jacqueline Woodson
Narrated by: Jacqueline Woodson,Quincy Tyler Bernstine,Peter Francis James,Shayna Small,Bahni Turpin
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Publisher's Summary

Named one of the Most Anticipated Books of 2019 by LitHub and The Millions. Called one of the Top 10 Literary Fiction titles of Fall by Publishers Weekly

An extraordinary new novel about the influence of history on a contemporary family, from the New York Times best-selling and National Book Award-winning author of Another Brooklyn and Brown Girl Dreaming.

Two families from different social classes are joined together by an unexpected pregnancy and the child that it produces. Moving forward and backward in time, with the power of poetry and the emotional richness of a narrative 10 times its length, Jacqueline Woodson's extraordinary new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of this child. 

As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of 16-year-old Melody's coming of age ceremony in her grandparents' Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, making her entrance to the soundtrack of Prince, she wears a special custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody's mother, for her own ceremony - a celebration that ultimately never took place. 

Unfurling the history of Melody's parents and grandparents to show how they all arrived at this moment, Woodson considers not just their ambitions and successes but also the costs, the tolls they've paid for striving to overcome expectations and escape the pull of history. As it explores sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class, and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives - even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.

Read by Jacqueline Woodson, with Quincy Tyler Bernstine (Sabe), Peter Francis James (Po’Boy), Shayna Small (Iris), and Bahni Turpin (Melody)

©2019 Jacqueline Woodson (P)2019 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

 “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)

"[A] beautifully imagined novel... Woodson’s nuanced voice evokes the complexities of race, class, religion, and sexuality in fluid prose and a series of telling details. This is a wise, powerful, and compassionate novel." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

"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)

What listeners say about Red at the Bone

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