Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson

Abrams. Nov. 2019. 48p. bibliog. notes. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781419736537.
Gr 1-4–Growing up in Pittsburgh in the 1950s with his sisters and his mother, Daisy, August Wilson found refuge in books. Daisy Wilson stressed that knowledge could be a tool of liberation: “If you can read, you can do anything—you can be anything.” Wilson’s passion for words grew after he obtained his first library card. As the years passed, he devoured anything he could get his hands on, especially the works of Langston Hughes, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Ralph Ellison, and Richard Wright. While Wilson loved to learn, virulent racism forced him to drop out of high school. Nevertheless, his mother’s wisdom echoed in his mind. The acceptance of Jitney by the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis turned the poet into a published playwright. Bryant’s text forms a clear and striking portrait of the Pulitzer Prize winner. Bryant’s poetic descriptions effectively chronicle Wilson’s artistic journey. Chapman’s illustrations, created using ink, colored pencil, acrylic paint, and cut paper, bring the narrative to life. Characters feel as though they’ve been captured in mid-dialogue. Some educators and parents may balk at the usage of the N-word at the beginning of the book, but others may recognize it as an opportunity to teach children about our country’s legacy of racism and anti-blackness.
VERDICT This empathetic and informative study of August Wilson’s early years explores the complexities of the black experience in America. A book that will resonate not only with bookworms and fans of the playwright but with black children wishing to see themselves reflected in the world around them.

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