National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson discusses her new book for young readers, Before the Ever After, a stirring novel-in-verse exploring the cost of professional sports on Black bodies and the ways a family moves forward when their glory days have passed. A Q&A featuring students’ pre-submitted questions will also be included.

For as long as ZJ can remember, his dad has been everyone’s hero. As a charming, talented pro football star, he’s as beloved to the neighborhood kids he plays with as he is to his millions of adoring sports fans. But lately life at ZJ’s house is anything but charming. His dad is having trouble remembering things and seems to be angry all the time. ZJ’s mom explains it’s because of all the head injuries his dad sustained during his career. ZJ can understand that—but it doesn’t make the sting any less real when his own father forgets his name. As ZJ contemplates his new reality, he has to figure out how to hold on tight to family traditions and recollections of the glory days, all the while wondering what their past amounts to if his father can’t remember it. And most importantly, can those happy feelings ever be reclaimed when they are all so busy aching for the past?

As part of the all-virtual 2021 Virginia Festival of the Book, this event is FREE to attend and open to the public. Please note that this discussion will not be recorded and will only be available to view during the live event on Zoom and Facebook.com/VaBookFest.

This event will include live-captioning.

Thanks to our bookseller for this event, New Dominion Bookshop.

“Using spare and lyrical language for ZJ’s present-tense narration, which moves back and forth through time, Woodson skillfully portrays the confusion, fear, and sadness when a family member suffers from brain injury and the personality changes it brings…. The well-rounded secondary characters complete a mosaic of a loving African-American family and their community of friends…. A poignant and achingly beautiful narrative shedding light on the price of a violent sport.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A beautiful and heart-wrenching story…. Eloquent prose poetry creates a moving narrative that reveals the grief of a child trying to understand why his father has changed and why nothing can be done. An ardent account of the multitudes of losses experienced by those who suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy and its effects on their families, ZJ’s doleful tale unveils the intense nostalgia and hope one can feel despite realizing that sometimes what is lost can never be regained.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Woodson’s text may be spare, but it has the emotional wallop of an offensive tackle.”—Shelf Awareness, starred review

Sponsors

Thanks to Dominion Energy, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Friends of Jefferson-Madison Regional Library for their support of this program.

Dominion Energy
W. K. Kellogg Foundation
Community Partners

Thanks to our community partners for sharing information about this event: the Jefferson-Madison Regional Libraries, including the Bookmobile, Central, Gordon Avenue, Northside, Crozet, Greene County, Louisa County, Nelson County, and Scottsville.

Speakers

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