Jacqueline Woodson Addresses Race, Violence at Festival of Contemporary Writing, May 24

An African-American teenager is shot dead by a white police officer. A fellow officer, African-American, refuses to keep silent about the murder. These are the events that open Jacqueline Woodson’s dramatic young-adult novel Hush, told from the perspective of the black officer’s daughter, as the family is forced to reinvent their lives within the Witness Protection Program. Hush explores the cost of taking a stand against injustice in a story made all too timely by the Trayvon Martin tragedy.

Award-winning young-adult author Jacqueline Woodson will give a public presentation focusing on Hush at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, May 24, in Spalding’s University Center Auditorium, 824 S. Fourth Street. Woodson is the inaugural Diana M. Raab Distinguished Writer in Residence for Spalding University’s brief-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program. The evening with Woodson is free, ticketless, and open to the public.

Woodson is one of the premier writers for young adults working today. Her protagonists are often young African-Americans whose lives are touched by issues of race, social justice, and the struggle to overcome cultural inequality. Her awards include three Newbery Honors, a Coretta Scott King Award and three Coretta Scott King Honors, and a Margaret A. Edwards Award and an ALAN Award—both for Lifetime Achievement in YA Literature. Her books have twice been nominated for the National Book Award.  The author of more than two dozen books for children and young adults, she lives with her family in Brooklyn.

Woodson’s books include picture books as well as novels for middle-grade and young-adult audiences. Her titles include Miracle’s Boys, which won the Coretta Scott King Award in 2001, and Newbery Honor titles After Tupac & D FosterFeathers and Show Way.

Woodson’s appearance serves as the headline event for Spalding’s Festival of Contemporary Writing, May 19-26. The festival is Kentucky’s largest and most prestigious spring-fall reading series.  Past guest authors include Ernest J. Gaines, Yusef Komunyakaa, Pico Iyer, Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket), Naomi Shihab Nye, Bobby Moresco, Heather Raffo, and many others.

The Festival of Contemporary Writing is part of Spalding’s brief-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program. Spalding’s brief-residency MFA Program is a four-semester program in creative writing, offering concentrations in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, writing for children and young adults, playwriting, and screenwriting. Fall and Spring semesters begin in Louisville in November and May, respectively, while a summer semester with residency abroad begins in June or July and is designed to fit teachers’ schedules. For more information, see www.spalding.edu/mfa.

The Diana M. Raab Distinguished Writer in Residence fund was established in 2011 through a gift from Diana M. Raab, a 2003 alumna of the Spalding MFA in Writing program. Raab, an award-winning memoirist, essayist, and poet, is the author of eight books.

Spalding’s emphasis on social justice is grounded in the tradition of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. In 2011, Spalding became the world’s first Compassionate University, as part of a movement of the International Institute for Compassionate Cities. Spalding President Tori Murden McClure said, “Our designation as the first confirmed and certified Compassionate University in the world means that we are not only being recognized for our history of compassion through service, but we pledge to work diligently to expand our capacity for compassion as individuals and as a community of learning—both in the classroom and out in the world.”