Poet Gwendolyn Brooks once said, “Do not desire to fit in. Desire to oblige yourselves to lead.” As the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize (1950), Brooks’ life story is an inspirational tale of defiance and self-reliance on solidarity through her Black identity and pride in her race and gender.
Author Suzanne Buckingham Slade details the inspirational life and career of Gwendolyn Brooks in her picture book biography, Exquisite: The Poetry Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Rather than focusing on societal struggles, such as the Great Depression to the ongoing racial divide in the United States, the book begins by painting Brooks’ literary journey throughout her childhood. While Buckingham continues to discuss Brooks’ adolescence and teen years, she focuses on her perseverance and the freedom she felt when writing. By doing so, Buckingham reassures all women and children reading this book that they also can persist in any challenges they face. The author notes that although outsiders rejected and teased Brooks due to her race and gender, she had the drive to change the narrative and write her feelings regarding her power as the intelligent Black woman she was. By weaving actual Gwendolyn Brooks quotes and insight alongside her writings and pictures, Buckingham incorporates the words and actions of Brooks to guide readers to enact positive change and protest through their own voice. As Brooks composed poetry about pride in her identity and her Chicago South Side home, let us all remember how powerful our words are in achieving our dreams and transforming the world around us. (Ages 6-10)