Red at the Bone
Moving forward and backward in time, Jacqueline Woodson's taut and powerful 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 the new child.As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-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 music 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.

Red at the Bone Details

TitleRed at the Bone
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 17th, 2019
PublisherRiverhead Books
ISBN-139780525535270
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Adult, Adult Fiction, Literary Fiction

Red at the Bone Review

  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    To say that Jacqueline Woodson is gifted story teller who writes beautifully almost feels like faint praise. The story begins with Melody, celebrating her sixteenth birthday, walking down the stairs in her grandparents brownstone, reaching a milestone in this present moment moving toward her future. In alternating narratives, moving back and forth in time, Woodson reflects on the pasts of Melody’s mother Iris, her father Aubrey, her grandmother Sabe and grandfather Sammy Po’Boy and the things th To say that Jacqueline Woodson is gifted story teller who writes beautifully almost feels like faint praise. The story begins with Melody, celebrating her sixteenth birthday, walking down the stairs in her grandparents brownstone, reaching a milestone in this present moment moving toward her future. In alternating narratives, moving back and forth in time, Woodson reflects on the pasts of Melody’s mother Iris, her father Aubrey, her grandmother Sabe and grandfather Sammy Po’Boy and the things that happened to get us to Melody’s birthday celebration. A past reflecting how sixteen years ago, Iris, pregnant with Melody didn’t walk down those steps but could walk away from her little girl, a heartbreaking past of Aubrey’s childhood as he remembers it he remembers hunger, or the first time he realizes he’s poor. A horrific past of racism , an attack on Sabe’s mother’s hair dressing shop, which will forever shape her attitude on money and keeping it safe from fire. A past (and present) beautiful love story of Sabe and Po’Boy. While this book is short in length, it is full of heart, hurt, history, realistic emotions, and a depth of love that is visible from Melody’s first step down that staircase and love that resonates when Melody takes another step into the future at the end of the book. This is the third book I have read by Woodson and another reason why she is on my list of favorite authors. I read this with Esil and Diane and as always a pleasure to discuss our thoughts. I received an advanced copy of this book from Riverhead Books through Edelweiss.
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    I loved it. Loved everything about this book. The gorgeous prose. The way in just a relatively few pages, Woodsen managed to flesh out her characters, making them autentic people. The themes explored. Themes of mother, daughter relationships, teenage pregnant, ambition, fatherhood and sexual identity. The many different emotions she manages to provoke, emotions that changed as the story progressed. How young people make decisions about their lives, things that will affect them in the future, not I loved it. Loved everything about this book. The gorgeous prose. The way in just a relatively few pages, Woodsen managed to flesh out her characters, making them autentic people. The themes explored. Themes of mother, daughter relationships, teenage pregnant, ambition, fatherhood and sexual identity. The many different emotions she manages to provoke, emotions that changed as the story progressed. How young people make decisions about their lives, things that will affect them in the future, not realizing what that entails. So many issues are covered, yet done so well that it never felt crowded. Life and death, lives lived. Some give up more for love, some are not able to give enough. I loved it because it felt authentic, real."Something about memory. It takes you back to where you were, and just lets you be there for a while."A much better read for my reading buddies, Angela, Lise and myself.ARC from Netgalley and Riverhead books.
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  • Chaima ✨ شيماء
    January 1, 1970
    Name a more iconic duo than a pretty cover and the impulsive need to buy stuff when you’re sad. I'll wait.
  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    I just loved this! This story is about two urban black families and shifts around in time and is told by the points of view of each of the five characters. An unplanned teenage pregnancy and how their lives go forward for a young couple, the daughter they bring forth, and the maternal grandparents.It is poetic and dramatic and I just couldn’t stop reading!This is the third book I’ve read by this author... I need to read her others.
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  • Debbie
    January 1, 1970
    This pogo-sticker is hoppin’ and she’s not stoppin’!This book, oh this book! A jazzy story with heart and smarts, it’s got me hoppin’ to the tune of 5+ stars! Where has this phenomenal writer been all my life? Oh what she can do with words! This wasn’t a book that took a while to draw me in. I started reading, and POW, I was immediately in love. The language! It grabbed me fast and it held me tight. It’s poetic without being flowery. It’s jazzy, with an intense pulse and a cadence that makes my This pogo-sticker is hoppin’ and she’s not stoppin’!This book, oh this book! A jazzy story with heart and smarts, it’s got me hoppin’ to the tune of 5+ stars! Where has this phenomenal writer been all my life? Oh what she can do with words! This wasn’t a book that took a while to draw me in. I started reading, and POW, I was immediately in love. The language! It grabbed me fast and it held me tight. It’s poetic without being flowery. It’s jazzy, with an intense pulse and a cadence that makes my head dance. And it’s dreamy—with its plaintive tone (there is a pervasive sadness) and its speedy yet graceful change in time periods and voice. The crooked storyline, going here and there and back again, with different people telling their truths, makes it feel like I’m not standing still, but instead, like I’m flowing in and out of decades and feelings. Woodson is a master; her transitions are seamless. And I never had trouble figuring out whose picture was being painted.And POW, I was instantly in love with the characters, too. The story centers around a pair of teens who make a baby. The book opens with the baby, Melody, who is now 16, having a birthday party. The mom and dad are there, along with a set of grandparents, and all have a story to tell. Melody calls her mom “Iris” instead of “mom,” and there’s a reason for this, as you learn as the story unfolds. We see everyone’s struggles. Their regrets, passion, ambition, grief. We see how history makes you who you are today, how expectations can get you in trouble, how love sometimes is trumped by ambition and what that can cost a family. Each character’s life is intense and vivid, and I felt for every one of them. I didn’t love Iris’s decision (in fact, it bothered me a lot), but I still felt her pain.This is just a little taste . . . (and you’ll see why I’m going nutso over this book):“Maybe this was the moment when I knew I was a part of a long line of almost erased stories. A child of denial. Of magical thinking. Of a time when Iris and my father wanted each other in…that way. The something they were so hungry for in each other becoming me.”“If this moment was a sentence, I’d be the period.”“And as we dance, I am not Melody who is sixteen, I am not my parents’ once illegitimate daughter—I am a narrative, someone’s almost forgotten story. Remembered.”“I see you and Aubrey wrote that check that your body’s gotta cash now,” she said, pointing her chin toward Iris’s belly.”I was in a frenzy while reading. Right in the middle of my glued-to-the-page reading bliss, my pushy book-crazed self shoved me off my pogo stick for a sec so I could go get the scoop on the author and her other books. I just had to know more about her, had to. So I read her bio on Goodreads, which was actually an auto-bio, and I was wowed. So wowed, in fact, that I made a friend listen to me read it over the phone. It’s a passionate couple of paragraphs about how she came to be a writer. Yep, I must read everything this storyteller (i.e., magician) has written. It’s all I can do not to push aside my carefully arranged queue and devour all of her books instead. I haven’t been this excited about an author since I discovered Maggie O’Farrell last year. So much fun to have it happen again! Finding a new favorite author is close to nirvana.Okay, you know as well as I do that this chatty cathy could go on, but she’d just be saying the same thing over and over again. (I have no idea why I started talking about myself in third person. Geez.) Let me just leave it at this: Read this perfect little book! It’s a short, fast read, so go ahead and slip it into your queue. You might end up joining me on my pogo-stick trip!Thanks to Edelweiss for the advance copy.
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  • Esil
    January 1, 1970
    What a beautiful little jewel of a book! Red at the Bone is told from the perspectives of five members of a somewhat unconventional family. At the centre of the story is Iris, who was 16 when she had her daughter Melodie. The three other family members are Iris' parents and Melodie's father. There is no linearity to the story. Slowly, through different layers, we get a bit more information about what happened to the characters and mostly a strong sense of their very distinct personalities. The e What a beautiful little jewel of a book! Red at the Bone is told from the perspectives of five members of a somewhat unconventional family. At the centre of the story is Iris, who was 16 when she had her daughter Melodie. The three other family members are Iris' parents and Melodie's father. There is no linearity to the story. Slowly, through different layers, we get a bit more information about what happened to the characters and mostly a strong sense of their very distinct personalities. The end is terribly sad and beautiful at the same time. I'm feeling a bit tongue tied by this one. Read it. It's short. I definitely have to read more books by this author. This was another buddy read with Diane and Angela. It more than made up for the mediocre book we just read together. Thanks also to Edelweiss and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
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  • Toni
    January 1, 1970
    Lyrical, poignant, powerful, Red at the bone by Jacqueline Woodson will mesmerize you with its spellbinding tale how people from different origins and backgrounds come together, love, create a new life, stay or go their different ways and continue living.The book begins with a special kind of celebration- it is Melody's sixteenth birthday and her coming of age party. She is wearing a custom made vintage dress, a corset and silk stockings. The dress was sewn and paid for by her maternal grandpare Lyrical, poignant, powerful, Red at the bone by Jacqueline Woodson will mesmerize you with its spellbinding tale how people from different origins and backgrounds come together, love, create a new life, stay or go their different ways and continue living.The book begins with a special kind of celebration- it is Melody's sixteenth birthday and her coming of age party. She is wearing a custom made vintage dress, a corset and silk stockings. The dress was sewn and paid for by her maternal grandparents for her mother Iris who never got her chance to wear it, because by the time she would have, she was already pregnant with Melody. As Melody is dancing in abandon with her friends, she is watched by her family. Her mother is wondering how things got so wrong between them. She is remembering how her own mother reacted to the news of the pregnancy, crying and cursing her daughter's foolishness that destroyed the bright future her parents had been hoping for.Aubrey, Melody's father, was just a teenager himself. He remembers falling in love with Iris and discovering 'what love felt like- a constant ache, an endless need'. He remembers his own mother who was so light-skinned, she could be mistaken for a white woman. People even asked her if Aubrey was her foster child. They were very poor, but it took years for Aubrey even realize that, let alone feel any kind shame for their poverty. Above all, Aubrey remembers his mother's words:-'I believe in you, Aubrey. My love. My life. My light.'Melody's grandparents have their own story. Her grandmother Sabe has been passing the story of the Tulsa riot/ massacre and the fire that burned her grandparents' businesses and left a scar on her mother's cheek. She grew up with a special kind of philosophy geared towards survival. Her grandfather's lifestory is perhaps much simple, but it is all about love and family.As we follow the protagonists' stories, we learn more and more about Melody's family, the love they all give her, their sincerity, and their own search for identity. Starting from Aubrey's mother explanation for their very different looks- 'The black ancestors beat the crap out of the white ones and said, Let this baby on through- through Aubrey's mother helping pregnant Iris re-kindle her ambition and passion for learning in order to finish her high school and go on to college to Sabe's inner voice 'Rise. Rise. Rise' refusing to let gossips dictate how she and her family should live.Jacqueline Woodson's writing is exquisitely beautiful and I can see myself reding and re-reading this book again and again. Each character has a unique voice and a unique story to tell. Red at the Bone is a little gem of a book that you will keep thinking about long after you have turned the last page.Thank you to Edelweiss and Riverhead Books for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.
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  • JanB
    January 1, 1970
    This is a look at the effects of teenage pregnancy on two families, one well-off, the other poor. Told through shifting time and the perspectives of the parents, the grandparents, and the child, the writing itself is worthy of 5 stars. I appreciated the themes as well as the push against stereotypes. The author set out to do what she intended with this book but for me, the story itself was good, but not a memorable read. I'm in the minority as many readers love this one.* I received a copy of th This is a look at the effects of teenage pregnancy on two families, one well-off, the other poor. Told through shifting time and the perspectives of the parents, the grandparents, and the child, the writing itself is worthy of 5 stars. I appreciated the themes as well as the push against stereotypes. The author set out to do what she intended with this book but for me, the story itself was good, but not a memorable read. I'm in the minority as many readers love this one.* I received a copy of the book via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
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  • Chrissie
    January 1, 1970
    My friends love this book. I hate it. It is not pleasant to write a review in such a situation, but it Is wrong to say you hate a book and then give no explanation. This book revels in suffering. It is a common phenomenon to observe people aggravating a wound to increase their pain. This may be a way of venting one’s spleen on life’s injustices. We can in this way feel sorry for ourselves! Some people are drawn to stare at an accident. I am not. Life throws difficulties at many , no, in fact My friends love this book. I hate it. It is not pleasant to write a review in such a situation, but it Is wrong to say you hate a book and then give no explanation. This book revels in suffering. It is a common phenomenon to observe people aggravating a wound to increase their pain. This may be a way of venting one’s spleen on life’s injustices. We can in this way feel sorry for ourselves! Some people are drawn to stare at an accident. I am not. Life throws difficulties at many , no, in fact all of us. My attitude is straightforward--figure out what your alternatives are, choose one and follow it through. Bemoaning the situation gets you nowhere. This is a story about an unplanned teenage pregnancy and birth. It is also about the difficulties thrown at people of color. I adamantly oppose racial discrimination. I would be the last to deny that adolescents have strong sexual urges and that people do make mistakes, but we must then live with the consequences.The author heaps one problem on top of another. Even 9/11 is added to the sad and depressing piling up of calamities. Four people die in the short span of this novel! Love relationships, one between a father and daughter and another between a son and a mother are sentimentally drawn—in both cases with a dismal (i.e. (view spoiler)[fatal (hide spoiler)]) outcome. My point is that in this book the dismal and the sad are pushed to an extreme. The positive is barely expressed. Maybe some readers enjoy being made to feel sad and depressed, but not me! Empathy can be felt for another’s happiness too. Even the prose style is designed to make you feel miserable. Repetition of words over and over and over and over again is used to further emphasize grief.A child, the one born out of wedlock, reaches in this tale the age of sixteen. She says she remembers a caul being pulled off her face at birth. She also remembers being an infant, sucking at her mother’s breast. Really?! Do you believe that? Is this feasible?What else do I dislike? I dislike how the tale flips back and forth in time. I dislike that characters are not properly introduced. Readers are to be kept guessing. Yeah, eventually a hint is given so you can make sense of what you are being told. Some people may like such guessing games, but I don’t. The audiobook has a full cast narration. Through dramatization the sad and depressing are further emphasized.I do not like this book, neither the lines nor the narration. Both I have given one star. Please, do keep in mind that I usually have nothing against a sad story. It is the technique by which this is done that I dislike here.***********Please see message nine below. It concerns additional aspects of the book, aspects that prospective readers should be told.
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  • BookOfCinz
    January 1, 1970
    I have no words to describe how great a writer Jacqueline Woodson is. Her writing genuinely takes my breathe away and I always in awe at how she uses words so sparingly but is able to convey so much- witchcraft! Red At The Bone opens with sixteen-year-old Melody's coming of age ceremony. Surrounded by friends and family, we get an immersive look into Melody's life and the events leading up to this ceremony. The ceremony is a considered a part of Melody's family history, but for some reason, Me I have no words to describe how great a writer Jacqueline Woodson is. Her writing genuinely takes my breathe away and I always in awe at how she uses words so sparingly but is able to convey so much- witchcraft! Red At The Bone opens with sixteen-year-old Melody's coming of age ceremony. Surrounded by friends and family, we get an immersive look into Melody's life and the events leading up to this ceremony. The ceremony is a considered a part of Melody's family history, but for some reason, Melody's mother Iris, didn't take part in tradition. The ceremony is somewhat the grounding point of the book. We hear from Melody's Grandmother Sabe, about how her ceremony went, and all the major events that led to her being in 2001 watching her only granddaughter take part in a tradition she hold close to her heart. We hear from her Grandfather Po'Boy and his courtship with Sabe and what it felt like when Iris showed up 16 earlier to let him know about the pregnancy. The book goes between the past and presence seamlessly, and with each chapter we are immersed in a richer history and greater understanding of each character. I loved the exploration of how an unwanted child impacts not only the parents but the grandparents and ultimately the child. Woodson did a spectacular job of exploring themes such as education, class, ambition, motherhood and sexuality in just 196 pages. A short but impactful read. I cannot stop singing praises about Jacqueline Woodson and her writing. WOW
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  • Diane Barnes
    January 1, 1970
    This is my first Jacqueline Woodson book, and I have to admit, she's quite the storyteller. In just a little under 200 pages, she gives us the family history of Melody, a child who could have been aborted but was not; her mother, Iris, who could have lost her way, but did not; her father Aubrey, who chose to stay; and grand-parents who learned to take the blows of life and roll on. Beautiful and uplifting, I think it should be required school reading for all teen-agers, but know it won't be beca This is my first Jacqueline Woodson book, and I have to admit, she's quite the storyteller. In just a little under 200 pages, she gives us the family history of Melody, a child who could have been aborted but was not; her mother, Iris, who could have lost her way, but did not; her father Aubrey, who chose to stay; and grand-parents who learned to take the blows of life and roll on. Beautiful and uplifting, I think it should be required school reading for all teen-agers, but know it won't be because of some of the content.Most memorable line: "She now knew that there were many ways to be hung from a cross".
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  • Cortney
    January 1, 1970
    “Guess that’s where the tears came from, knowing that there’s so much in this great big world that you don’t have a single ounce of control over.”Let’s take a trip down memory lane...Melody is a lost girl. Carrying a burden she never asked for. Aubrey is a lost man. Trying to make every thing right but failing again and again. Iris is a lost woman. Trying to get back the time she feels she lost. Woodson gives us glimpses of the choices made by each of these characters in the past and how it impa “Guess that’s where the tears came from, knowing that there’s so much in this great big world that you don’t have a single ounce of control over.”Let’s take a trip down memory lane...Melody is a lost girl. Carrying a burden she never asked for. Aubrey is a lost man. Trying to make every thing right but failing again and again. Iris is a lost woman. Trying to get back the time she feels she lost. Woodson gives us glimpses of the choices made by each of these characters in the past and how it impacts their future. Red at the Bone is a beautifully haunting story about regrets, heartbreak, and loss that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page. A short but powerful read.
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  • Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
    January 1, 1970
    It's 2001 and sixteen-year-old Melody is celebrating her birthday surrounded by family and friends.  Told from alternating points of view, readers learn the past that brought two very different families together for this momentous occasion. Red at the Bone is a poignant story that I devoured in one sitting.  The voice of each character is powerful and authentic.  The tragedies that play major parts in their lives were heartbreaking.  This is an unflinching look at family and how we become one, s It's 2001 and sixteen-year-old Melody is celebrating her birthday surrounded by family and friends.  Told from alternating points of view, readers learn the past that brought two very different families together for this momentous occasion. Red at the Bone is a poignant story that I devoured in one sitting.  The voice of each character is powerful and authentic.  The tragedies that play major parts in their lives were heartbreaking.  This is an unflinching look at family and how we become one, slowly and all at once, based on our choices.At just over 200 pages, Woodson explores ambition, education, desire, and parenthood in an emotionally insightful way.I recommend this book to readers who love literary/historical fiction, family drama, and narratives from multiple points of view.Thanks to Riverhead Books and Edelweiss for providing me with a DRC in exchange for my honest review.  Red at the Bone is scheduled for release on September 17, 2019.For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com
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  • The Artisan Geek
    January 1, 1970
    2/6/19A sincere thank you to my fam at Riverhead books for sending this one over. I just can't understand how someone can write so flawlessly! Completely dazed! Woodson has a unique talent of being able to shape such interesting and rich characters. With ease she shift between past and present of the people's lives, threading together one complete family history. A history that has been marked by unexpected joy, pain and discovery. This is my first read from Woodson and I am absolutely hooked. W 2/6/19A sincere thank you to my fam at Riverhead books for sending this one over. I just can't understand how someone can write so flawlessly! Completely dazed! Woodson has a unique talent of being able to shape such interesting and rich characters. With ease she shift between past and present of the people's lives, threading together one complete family history. A history that has been marked by unexpected joy, pain and discovery. This is my first read from Woodson and I am absolutely hooked. Will be reviewing this on my channel!You can find me onYoutube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website
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  • Catie
    January 1, 1970
    Jacqueline Woodson is a NATIONAL TREASURE. This is one of the very few books that has made me break down into no-holds-barred ugly crying at the end. Nuanced, devastating, and yet empowering and hopeful, this is a perfect read.
  • Kiki
    January 1, 1970
    Am I the last person to have discovered one of the USA's greatest literary treasures? Lord! 4.5 ⭐. Review after I gather myself and post it on IG.
  • Monica **can't read fast enough**
    January 1, 1970
    I loved everything about this book. The relationships, self doubts, generational and class divides, as well as complicated love are explored so completely but compactly in this story. Woodson's writing is just extraordinary. What she manages to convey in under 200 pages is just beautiful. This is one that I know I will read again and again.***I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.*** Where you can find me:•(♥).•*Monlatable Book Reviews*•.(♥)•Twitter: @monicaisreadingInstagram: @read I loved everything about this book. The relationships, self doubts, generational and class divides, as well as complicated love are explored so completely but compactly in this story. Woodson's writing is just extraordinary. What she manages to convey in under 200 pages is just beautiful. This is one that I know I will read again and again.***I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.*** Where you can find me:•(♥).•*Monlatable Book Reviews*•.(♥)•Twitter: @monicaisreadingInstagram: @readermonicaGoodreads Group: The Black Bookcase
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  • Christine
    January 1, 1970
    Setting this one aside at 16%. Not digging the writing style at all. No rating.
  • Jonathan
    January 1, 1970
    “If a body is to be remembered, someone has to tell its story”.Tell a story of bodies is exactly what Jaqueline Woodson has done in red at the bone. Once again she has proven a master storyteller and a writer with the utmost ability to bring her characters to life and make you feel everything that they are going through, the love, the sadness, the hate, the life, and the death. She beautifully weaves this tapestry of a novel about one family and their lives past, present and future. I was left s “If a body is to be remembered, someone has to tell its story”.Tell a story of bodies is exactly what Jaqueline Woodson has done in red at the bone. Once again she has proven a master storyteller and a writer with the utmost ability to bring her characters to life and make you feel everything that they are going through, the love, the sadness, the hate, the life, and the death. She beautifully weaves this tapestry of a novel about one family and their lives past, present and future. I was left shattered yet hopeful, reminiscent of a classic Toni Morrison work, Woodson has once again outdone herself with another novel sure to be worthy of a national book award honors..The novel starts at Melody’s coming of age ceremony at the age of sixteen with her family and supporting cast all there, her Mother Iris and Father Aubrey who had her at that same young age of sixteen, and Iris’ parents Sabe and Po’ Boy. Then from there the novel twists and turns changing narrations to and from each of these characters explaining how they got to this moment, how they met each other, how they fell in love, struggled, the losses they endured, the sacrifices they made, and most of all how they will forever be simply family. Each character is told with flawless detail that it’s easy to become so attached and so fond of everyone, your heart aches when theirs does, you experience their joys, you become one with this book. In such a short novel (200 pages) I was completely encapsulated and felt so much for this family, I had to stop reading in public a few times because unexpected turns led to very strong emotions. This will be in my top 10 if not top 5 favorites of this year, and shows Woodson progressing from her already amazing list of books, taking her skill and art to the next level following the success of Another Brooklyn
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  • Naori
    January 1, 1970
    This should be called... Margarine So much could be said surrounding the intricacies of these characters; the weaving in an out of racially fraught spaces, their own struggles to legitimize the inherent bigotry in their lives, and to recognize purity, love, and the thrust towards salvation in the very moment that it is being given to them.However, in reading this piece I was most affected by the ways in which certain characters subtly, but irrevocably stained others, by assigning them new truths This should be called... Margarine So much could be said surrounding the intricacies of these characters; the weaving in an out of racially fraught spaces, their own struggles to legitimize the inherent bigotry in their lives, and to recognize purity, love, and the thrust towards salvation in the very moment that it is being given to them.However, in reading this piece I was most affected by the ways in which certain characters subtly, but irrevocably stained others, by assigning them new truths, unveiling aspects of their lives that once revealed, forever altered that character’s being and shaped the rest of their lives.When we think of bone we often think of marrow. Bone marrow sits right at the heart of our bones, tucked on the inside. Bones – bones can break, fracture, they can heal. But it is that thickening, that substance that fills all the cavities inside our bones, that never goes away. When Iris’s character, in heartbreak said, “she felt red at the bone – like there was something inside of her undone and bleeding.” In fact she was right. There was something inside her, undone and bleeding, something she initiated long ago, so harsh that it seeped into the marrow, and who’s pain unraveled with her relentless escaping until she finally stilled, fell in love, and that is when, through her own faux pas she became red at the bone.If analyzing the dynamics of the relationship between Aubrey and Iris, it is fair to say that Iris is amused by Aubrey at best and tolerates him at least. She neither intended, wanted to, nor regrets not being a mother to their child, Melody. The reason I think this disparity is important is because some of the actions that occur prior to birth are those that impale the sense of each character’s internal truth, as discussed above. As with any narrative we see the first shrug the author gives us towards the fissures to come. Iris, shallowly musing about how her future will include candles and wine, and certainly not Aubrey with his “near white” mother, recalls being at their home where she was offered margarine on white bread with jelly. Her response was, “You know that’s not real butter, right?” To which Aubrey responds simply, “Tastes good to me.” One could pause here to think about how Iris’s background tethers her to a certain form of thinking that access to food is equal for everyone, having no notion that poverty and nutrition are historically linked to inequality and account for the staggering numbers of life threatening diseases plaguing low level income populations. That strong desire to inform Iris of these truths would be there, however, Iris simply eradicates any hope for this type of enlightenment with the simple statement, “She couldn’t see a future with someone who only knew margarine.” Bone. Break. Iris’ shallow use of condiment vs. character mating system is actually at the cusp of what will soon slide them both into their new assignations, the rawness of identities not desired. Aubrey recounts, “Until he’d been inside Iris’ house with its upright piano beneath framed portraits of ancient family members, he hadn’t thought of him and his mama as poor. But now, in the dim room, with Iris breathing gently at his shoulder, he could see that was the case. He reached behind himself for Iris’s hand. The strange thing was the shame that came with knowing this. He tried not to inhale the cheap Lysol smell, tried not to look at the vase filled with dusty plastic flowers.” After telling his mother he loves her, Aubrey’s tears come to his eyes as he remember the poverty of his life, the fear of getting to tomorrow, the dependence on things like food stamps to get by. As he does this his mother says,‘“Love you too, baby. Take one of these stamps and bring me back a Diet Coke.” His mother pressed the stamp into his hand, looking into his eyes for a moment. “And use the change, she said, to get you and your new friend a little something too.”’ Marrow. There couldn’t a more glowing indictment of Iris’s inability to conceptualize poverty, of searing human compassion, than her blindness to this gesture. Yet, it is not simply Iris crafting Aubrey’s selfhood through the ghost of what isn’t, she also is shaved to the bone, tempered in the most cosmically way possible through the vessel of Aubrey’s mother, CathyMarie. CathyMarie, the very woman whose dusty flowers, food stamps, dark hallways and margarine she once deigned, is now the one person who can save her from being kicked out of high school completely. (The irony here should not be lost on the reader that it is Aubrey’s mother’s tutoring of Iris that gives her the academic means by which to leave him.) CathyMarie begins tutoring Iris in the basics of algebra, having to use Iris’s hands to even explain the basic timetables. As CathyMarie obliviously makes frustrated comments, a new cracking, breaking, heat is spreading that has never been there before. “Iris felt a sudden crushing fear of failing. Something shifted in her brain then, something unlocked as if she were waking up. CathyMarie’s hand pressing her middle finger into her palm and insisting that science and math and reading were as important as her own name was the key to the next thing and the next.” Bone. Red. Break.It is Iris that delivers Aubrey’s sentence of poverty, like a jury, with its accompaniment of shame. However, it is Aubrey’s mother who delivers Iris’s sentence of fear, fear of failure. We do not see enough of his story unravel to know how these things are internalized. But it is Aubrey’s mother, who catalyzes Iris’s welling fear of failure and disappointment. As Aubrey embraces his life, the daughter they created, the love that can be generated, he also lives in his hope that this women’s smile he always saw as a smile not a jeer, would one day want him again. Iris takes her algebra fingers as far away as she can go, and when she falls in love with a woman whose relationship unravels it is because the one thing is revealed that Iris spent her whole life running from: Melody. Her blood. Her bones. Her daughter. Her. ……“Iris was nearly four months pregnant…the thing she’d crave over everything else was white bread slathered with margarine.”
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  • Anna Luce
    January 1, 1970
    ★★★✰✰ 3 stars “They say you don’t remember early stuff, that you’re just suddenly six and having your first memories. But that’s not true.” At its heart Red at the Bone is a novel about familial relationships. The story opens in 2001 during sixteen-year-old Melody's 'introduction' to society. We soon learn that she is the product of a teenage pregnancy and that her parents come from two very different backgrounds. Her mother's family is relatively privileged, while her father was brought up by h ★★★✰✰ 3 stars “They say you don’t remember early stuff, that you’re just suddenly six and having your first memories. But that’s not true.” At its heart Red at the Bone is a novel about familial relationships. The story opens in 2001 during sixteen-year-old Melody's 'introduction' to society. We soon learn that she is the product of a teenage pregnancy and that her parents come from two very different backgrounds. Her mother's family is relatively privileged, while her father was brought up by his single mother. The narrative explores the way the various members of this family feel towards Melody and each another. Chapters narrated or focused on Melody often detail the resentment she feels towards her mother while the chapters focusing on Melody's mother usually take us back to the early stages of Melody's life and depict the way Melody's mother struggled to reconcile herself with the life and status of a young mother. Woodson deftly captures the difficult, and sometimes incongruous, feelings and desires we nourish towards our families. The chapters swiftly switched from character to character and the shifting perspectives (from 1st to 3rd) worked perfectly in that they allowed us to view the characters inside-out. Relationship between past, present, and future as they explore or survey their feelings and memories. The multiplicity of voices makes the narrative a plurivocal one, one in which each character can express their own thoughts and views. We see the way these various characters approach or are changed by their parenthood, as well as the way in which their different upbringings shapes their worldview.Each voice evokes with brilliant veracity a particular character so that within a few lines we would know who was the narrator was. My favourite sections were narrated by Melody's maternal grandfather: there was such love and affection emanating from his words that I had to hold back tears. The story Still, while I do think that Woodson's writing style could be lyrical, I did find that when the characters, or the narrative, recounted their sexual encounters or described their romantic/sexual desires towards a certain person, the writing could become quite sickly, acquiring an almost over-sentimental and icky quality that decreased my attention and involvement towards the storyline.Also, I wasn't particularly satisfied with a certain plot point. The plot as such meanders from past to present, seeming almost unfixed or unfazed by things such as as sticking to cohesive timeline or structure, and yet, all of a sudden something derails the course of these meandering narratives....I'm not sure why the story had to make a direct connection with (view spoiler)[9/11 (hide spoiler)]. It seemed almost to have been used to shock readers as it was included in an almost oblique manner. Which is a pity as up to that point Woodson's novel struck me as being very considerate.Nevertheless, I think I probably would recommend this one. The grandfather's chapters alone are worth the read...Read more reviews on my blog / / / View all my reviews on Goodreads
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  • Paris (parisperusing)
    January 1, 1970
    "Because maybe this was what love felt like — a constant ache, an endless need. … Maybe this was love — wanting someone with all the senses." — Red at the Bone, Jacqueline WoodsonAfter poring over Another Brooklyn when it released years ago, I rushed at the opportunity to read Jacqueline Woodson's new novel, Red at the Bone, a tale defined by the sensitive and difficult nature of black motherhood, queerness, sexuality, and the painful lengths we go to starve our bodies of its most natural desire "Because maybe this was what love felt like — a constant ache, an endless need. … Maybe this was love — wanting someone with all the senses." — Red at the Bone, Jacqueline WoodsonAfter poring over Another Brooklyn when it released years ago, I rushed at the opportunity to read Jacqueline Woodson's new novel, Red at the Bone, a tale defined by the sensitive and difficult nature of black motherhood, queerness, sexuality, and the painful lengths we go to starve our bodies of its most natural desires. And what a beautifully nuanced novel this is, indeed. One that fondly supports Woodson's reputation as a mentor of black history and a healer of black youth, queer and all.Dawning in 2001, Red at the Bone takes form through lush, time-traveling passages, though the heart of the story involves Melody, who has just turned 16. But to know Melody is to know the story of her parents, Iris and Aubrey, and that of theirs — all of whom, on the cusp of Melody's womanhood, made difficult choices and trajectories to bring her into existence. Before there was Melody, there was Iris, who, like many adolescents her age, answered her body's call for something harmless and sweet, something sensually feminine and familiar yet untouchable, forbidden. Even as Melody moves inside her and at the press of Aubrey's needy love, Iris is already elsewhere, unmoored and drifting to that sweet spot again, performing the painful balancing act of a secret and shameful life as she sets down her own tenuous path of unexpected motherhood.Woodson writes of love and oppression with soul-stripping honesty, and that is totally evident in Red at the Bone, a neighbor if not a sister story of Another Brooklyn. I wept reading this family's story, not just for the sorrows of my mother, her mother, hers and so forth — whose voices were as loud and clear as ever in these characters — but for the tribe of black youth forced to pin down their urges out of fear and impossibility.Let Woodson break your heart just one more time. I promise it’ll be worth it.If you liked my review, feel free to follow me @parisperusing on Instagram.
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  • Keyona
    January 1, 1970
    So I finished this book. And it made me cry in public. And I want to read it again. So I can feel this feeling again. I did not read the synopsis of this book before reading. I just cracked it open. It opens with 16-year old Melody making her entrance in a dress that had been custom made for her mom Iris' 16th birthday but she never got to wear. Why? Because of an unexpected pregnancy with Melody. As Melody's grandparents and parents watch her walk down the steps we get the back story of everyon So I finished this book. And it made me cry in public. And I want to read it again. So I can feel this feeling again. I did not read the synopsis of this book before reading. I just cracked it open. It opens with 16-year old Melody making her entrance in a dress that had been custom made for her mom Iris' 16th birthday but she never got to wear. Why? Because of an unexpected pregnancy with Melody. As Melody's grandparents and parents watch her walk down the steps we get the back story of everyone. How they all came to be in that very moment. All I have to say is that Jacqueline is a BEAST. I had no idea she could write like this. I savored every single page. It was literally like reading beautiful poetry...except I don't read poetry yet I enjoyed this so much. The men in this book steal the show for me. Po'Boy and Aubrey are just everything in this book. They are sweet and caring and love their women with everything they have. I want to reread this book right now.
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  • Jamie
    January 1, 1970
    "Because if a body's to be remembered, someone has to tell its story." This is one of the many quotes I highlighted in RED AT THE BONE, this beautiful, gut-punch of a novel by Jacqueline Woodson. A piece of the highest literary craftsmanship, each chapter alternates character, and each character's voice is so real I felt like they were talking directly to me, or that each character was telling me their story instead of one author writing it. I felt intimately connected with everyone in this fami "Because if a body's to be remembered, someone has to tell its story." This is one of the many quotes I highlighted in RED AT THE BONE, this beautiful, gut-punch of a novel by Jacqueline Woodson. A piece of the highest literary craftsmanship, each chapter alternates character, and each character's voice is so real I felt like they were talking directly to me, or that each character was telling me their story instead of one author writing it. I felt intimately connected with everyone in this family and shared their heartache, their joy, and all the in between moments. This is the perfect novel to fall into and lose yourself, to get completely swept up in, and resurface only after reaching the last page.
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  • Nadia
    January 1, 1970
    There's nothing as dangerous as a poet writing a novel. A breathtaking, distilled story of a family.
  • Bruce Katz
    January 1, 1970
    If anyone were to ask me what the "point" of literature is, I would direct them to this book for its power, insight, and humanity. I read it in a single sitting while on a four hour flight. Had the book been longer, I likely would not have been able to finish it -- but there's an equal possibility that I would have resisted getting off the plane until I was done reading. I can't imagine that ending well.Woodson's novel immediately before this, "Another Brooklyn," had a strong effect on me. Never If anyone were to ask me what the "point" of literature is, I would direct them to this book for its power, insight, and humanity. I read it in a single sitting while on a four hour flight. Had the book been longer, I likely would not have been able to finish it -- but there's an equal possibility that I would have resisted getting off the plane until I was done reading. I can't imagine that ending well.Woodson's novel immediately before this, "Another Brooklyn," had a strong effect on me. Never before had I felt myself being drawn so vividly into the mind and soul of another person. I naturally assumed it would be a unique experience, that any future book by Woodson might impress and move me but never reach the extraordinary heights of Brooklyn. I was wrong. "Red at the Bone" is every bit equal -- perhaps (amazing to say!) even superior to -- the earlier novel. To say that reading it was astonishing would be to miss more than half of the experience, for "reading" is far too inadequate a word. Everything in the book is a revelation. We live and feel our way through it's pages. The circumstances and plot elements feel real. The characters are brought to vivid life. They are solid and complicated, admirable and flawed, utterly beyond simple categorization. Take Iris, for example: smart, ambitious, sure of her future, manipulative, and pregnant as a teenager. Easy to admire for her gifts, but equally easy to criticize for being self-centered -- she leaves her infant daughter with her parents and the baby's father, and has as little contact as possible thereafter; her resentful daughter addresses her by her name rather than as Mom. And yet before the book is done, Iris will show herself to be so much more than we think. Woodson's description of Iris's labor and delivery might give a sense of what I mean. [In the digital ARC --which has numerous distracting errors -- the "dialogue" is presented in italics.] It begins with Iris's experience of pain: No one believed her screaming. The doctor saying over and over again, It's just pressure you're feeling, the epidural is taking care of the pain. She wanted to curse him out, stuff his body inside of hers so that he could feel this fire of a birth... Iris wanted to remind the doctor that his old white ass had never given birth so how the fuck would he know...Finally, the baby comes: She's a beauty, the doctor said. And then Melody was here in the world, red and wrinkled and crying. Give her to me. She's mine. But as the nurse quickly wiped mucus and blood from the baby, then placed her tiny warm body against Iris's chest, the baby's eyes squinted open then shut again as though against bright light. Or maybe against Iris's own confused gaze. Iris felt a jolt of something, something electric and scary running between the two of them. Fuck, Iris whispered. If she were older, she would have been able to ask the bigger question -- What the fuck have I done? To move convincingly from “She’s mine” to “What the fuck have I done” in an interval barely longer than a single breath is otherworldly. Reading "Red at the Bone," we discover at the same time Iris does 'what she had done,' and what might seem at first easy to condemn by the end of the book becomes infinitely more complicated.Each of the other characters has similar depth. Each has hopes, dreams, emotional baggage, and disappointments. Each is shaped by forces outside themselves, by race, history, class, and the weight of broken dreams. Sabe, Iris's mother, is loving, serious, strong; she bears within her the trauma of her mother's miraculous escape from the 1921 attack on Tulsa's thriving black community by a white mob. Fearful that something like this might happen again, Sabe hides money and gold in the house so it 'won't be taken' from her. Aubrey, Melody's father, is capable but unambitious. As a youth he was slow to become aware of how poor he and his mother were, to see how much more there was to his mother with her coarse hands and regular nightly absences than he had thought. His desperate hunger for love, and his fear that it will be torn away from him, shape his every move. The other characters are equally solid, equally fully realized, equally capable of surprising the reader. So much of the power in "Red at the Bone" comes from Woodson's way of letting her characters fully reveal themselves over time, so that the reader is obliged to judge them at one point, then forced to reconsider those judgments later."Red at the Bone" shares its wisdom with honesty, tenderness, love, and, ultimately, hope. The world outside the characters' walls is seen from time to time -- the crack epidemic of the 80s, the breakdown of black neighborhoods, 9/11 -- but their significance in the book lies in how the characters respond to them. For all the weight of its subject matter, I feel obliged to note, there is lots of humor, both raucus and refined, always about more than itself. Late in the book, for example, Sabe reminisces about reading poetry to her husband, Po'Boy. I tell you, something about the poetry of Dunbar just made us laugh and laugh. Black folks trying to be all proper and speak like white folks and all. Used to get Po'Boy laughing when I read Dunbar's poems just the way the man intended them to be read. Used to make him go You see how my Sabe do with those poems. Talented as she wants to be! We both loved how he wrote. He was truly saying, Can we just be who we are, people? Can we just take off our masks and laugh and dance and eat and talk? But then he has the nerve to have that name Paul Laurence Dunbar -- like you need to say it with your pinky pointing out. Hmph. Made me and Po'Boy shake our heads at all that our people are.) Just a few short sentences, yet they tell us so much about the characters and the world they inhabit. Other humorous moments are often sharper, more biting, but they are always revealing.This is one of those very rare books that make me wish GR had an option beyond 5 stars, an "off-the-charts" rating. "Red at the Bone" touched me in too many ways to articulate. As my flight began its descent into Baltimore, I found myself struggling to process the complicated emotions the book elicited from me. I hurriedly typed into my iPad a summary thought: 'What we live, what we love,what we lose, what we regret, and the lessons that take a lifetime to learn.' "Red at the Bone" is all these and more. Jacqueline Woodson is a miracle worker.
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  • Darla
    January 1, 1970
    A family saga told in lyrical prose that slides from one POV to another and back and forth in time without effort. Included is the 9/11 tragedy and I am o glad I picked it up to read on the 18th anniversary of that day. Explores childbirth, parenting, education, illness, sexuality and economic diversity. Jacqueline Woodson is a master storyteller, packing the past and present of this family into just over 200 pages. Thank you to Riverhead Books and Edelweiss for a digital ARC in exchange for an A family saga told in lyrical prose that slides from one POV to another and back and forth in time without effort. Included is the 9/11 tragedy and I am o glad I picked it up to read on the 18th anniversary of that day. Explores childbirth, parenting, education, illness, sexuality and economic diversity. Jacqueline Woodson is a master storyteller, packing the past and present of this family into just over 200 pages. Thank you to Riverhead Books and Edelweiss for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Jiny S
    January 1, 1970
    This is the story of a out-of-wedlock teen pregnancy that scrutinizes the dialogue between race, class, and gender. The story is told from the different perspectives of characters surrounding the event, starting with Melody at the age of sixteen, living and experiencing the coming of age party that her mother, Iris, never experienced because of Melody’s conception and birth. What can be appreciated from the narrative is that a break from traditional stereotypes of unwed black mothers can be obse This is the story of a out-of-wedlock teen pregnancy that scrutinizes the dialogue between race, class, and gender. The story is told from the different perspectives of characters surrounding the event, starting with Melody at the age of sixteen, living and experiencing the coming of age party that her mother, Iris, never experienced because of Melody’s conception and birth. What can be appreciated from the narrative is that a break from traditional stereotypes of unwed black mothers can be observed with the agency and ambition that underpin the character’s choices, even if they come at great costs. Family is a dynamic institution. It comes in different sizes and forms, often times shaped not by choices alone but by the demands and restrictions of its environment. The stereotypical two-parent, heterosexual, nuclear family unit relegates all the other adaptations into the realm of the dysfunctional, a label that encourages victim-blaming and policies that focus on discouraging the issue instead of fixing the problem (if there’s one in the first place). The story of this particular family is one of heartbreaks and joys—one that is subjected to harsh demands and determined choices—broken apart and held together by love.
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  • Jillian Doherty
    January 1, 1970
    This incredibly powerful gift should come with a disclaimer: potent and brilliantly shattering!Wow - I had to decompress after finishing; I couldn't put it down from the moment I started and needed to rest before even considering moving away from the story and experience. I've never read such concentrated passages, and completely in awe of her heart-bending, and totally effective prose. This September, please take a big, deep breath and dive in without even fully knowing how deep this will take This incredibly powerful gift should come with a disclaimer: potent and brilliantly shattering!Wow - I had to decompress after finishing; I couldn't put it down from the moment I started and needed to rest before even considering moving away from the story and experience. I've never read such concentrated passages, and completely in awe of her heart-bending, and totally effective prose. This September, please take a big, deep breath and dive in without even fully knowing how deep this will take you.Galley borrowed from the publisher.
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  • Nada Hosny
    January 1, 1970
    This is my very first Jacqueline Woodson book, and honestly i'm beyond impressedThe story starts with Melody's sixteen birthday, it's more of a huge family celebration, where they celebrate all of the kids coming to age. Melody is the child that joined 2 families  from different classes by her birth.So the first chapter is from Melody's POV, and then we take tours to read everyone else's POV, and back story; we have:  Her mother, Iris Her father, Aubrey Her grandmother Her grandfatherAnd then we This is my very first Jacqueline Woodson book, and honestly i'm beyond impressedThe story starts with Melody's sixteen birthday, it's more of a huge family celebration, where they celebrate all of the kids coming to age. Melody is the child that joined 2 families  from different classes by her birth.So the first chapter is from Melody's POV, and then we take tours to read everyone else's POV, and back story; we have:  Her mother, Iris Her father, Aubrey Her grandmother Her grandfatherAnd then we get back to Melody.What Actually fascinated me is that every POV, it doesn't just feel like another view of the story, it feels like we are literally in the person's shoes, the language starts changing, the posture, everything about the chapter screams it's owner character, and that is the perfect way to handle multiple POV.The story itself speaks about a lot of topics that are always hidden between the lines in any usual YA novel, but this one spoke loudly and shamelessly, it couldn't have been better.It speaks Race, class, family issues, family expectation, sex, desire, education, status, money, and bit of politics tbh.It was everything!The writing was just a piece of heaven, between paragraphs you'd find these verses of not much hardcore poetry but lines that were more like music to my ears than just regular words, i probably highlighted half of  them.
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