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Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson

By: Jen Bryant

Illustrator: Cannaday Chapman

August Wilson (1945–2005) was a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who had a particular talent for capturing the authentic, everyday voice of black Americans. As a child, he read off the soup cans and cereal boxes in the pantry, and when his mother brought him to the library, his whole world opened up. After facing intense prejudice at school from both students and some teachers, August dropped out. However, he continued reading and educating himself independently. He felt that if he could read about it, then he could teach himself anything and accomplish anything.

Like many of his plays, Feed Your Mind is told in two acts, revealing how Wilson grew up to be one of the most influential American playwrights.

Author’s note. Time line. Notes. Selected bibliography. List of plays by August Wilson. Full-color illustrations were created using ink, colored pencil, acrylic paint, and cut paper, and assembled and colored in Adobe Photoshop.

ISBN: 9781419736537

JLG Release: Mar 2020


Sensitive Areas: Discrimination: Racial Insensitivity/Racism
Topics: August Wilson (1945–2005) , African American authors , Twentieth-century US playwrights , Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania , Literacy

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Awards & Honors

CSMCL Best Books - 2019

Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal*, Booklist, Publishers Weekly*, The Horn Book Magazine

School Library Journal

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 d 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. 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.

Horn Book

Beloved African American playwright August Wilson, known for his ten-play Pittsburgh Cycle and other dramas, is introduced to young readers in this elegant picture-book biography. Born Frederick August Kittel Jr. in 1945, Wilson was raised by his single mother in the diverse Hill District of Pittsburgh, awash in a rich medley of languages, people, Beloved African American playwright August Wilson, known for his ten-play Pittsburgh Cycle and other dramas, is introduced to young readers in this elegant picture-book biography. Born Frederick August Kittel Jr. in 1945, Wilson was raised by his single mother in the diverse Hill District of Pittsburgh, awash in a rich medley of languages, people, and cultures. Struggling against discrimination and racial violence from a young age (including being called the n-word, spelled out in full in the text), Wilson was sustained by his love of words—from the squiggles on food labels that he sounded out at age four all the way to the powerful voices of Black authors whose work he discovered at the public library. As an adult, Wilson listened intently to the people around him as he found his own way with words through poetry and eventually plays, giving voice to his own and other Black experiences. That power of words is central to this book: Bryant’s well-researched and well-crafted text is deftly spun into two acts (childhood and adulthood) of freeform poems. Chapman’s clear, intimate, mixed-media art appears throughout the thoughtfully designed pages, further drawing readers into the world of this powerhouse dramatist. The extensive back matter includes an author’s note, a biographical timeline, bibliographic notes, and list of Wilson’s plays.

Book Details

ISBN

9781419736537

First Release

March 2020

Genre

Nonfic

Dewey Classification

B

Trim Size

8 1/2 x 10 1/2

Page Count

48

Accelerated Reader

N/A

Scholastic Reading Counts

N/A

Lexile

N/A

Format

Print Book

Edition

Hardcover edition

Publisher

Abrams

Potentially Sensitive Areas

Discrimination: Racial Insensitivity/Racism

Topics

August Wilson (1945–2005), African American authors, Twentieth-century US playwrights, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Literacy,

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