Renée Watson


Renée Watson is an American poet, children’s author, and self-described “teaching artist” born in Paterson, New Jersey. Growing up as a Black girl in the overwhelmingly white city of Portland, Oregon, the poetry of writers such as Maya Angelou and Eloise Greenfield was crucial to her ability to feel represented and reaffirmed. Without books or films that reflected her reality—where Black girls were protagonists—or simply featured Black characters without revolving around harrowing struggle, Watson sought to write stories that she wished she had as a kid and could do for others what reading poetry did for her. Her novels, including Piecing Me Together (2017) and Love is a Revolution (2021), often follow young Black girls as they navigate school and love and seek to reaffirm their everyday experiences. Having spent over twenty years teaching creative writing, theater, and poetry throughout the country, much of Watson’s writing is influenced by her experiences as an educator working with underprivileged youth. Watson’s first children’s book, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen (2010), was based on her experiences working with kids who lived through Hurricane Katrina. Watson also founded the I, Too Arts Collective, a non-profit organization that was based out of the home of Langston Hughes whose purpose was to nurture underrepresented communities through literary and cultural arts programming. Watson is a firm believer in the importance of counseling and therapy and is passionate about using literature to help young people explore social issues and manage trauma.

This Body

This Body



1. Sensitive. Dry

See Dove soap, Oil of Olay, shea butter.

See middle school pimples plumping up 

the night before picture day.

Always on the chin or nose.


2. Dark. See Slave. See Negro.

See age 7. See yourself

playing on the playground

when a white girl says,

you must eat a lot of chocolate

since your skin so brown.



1. See assimilation.

See smoke from the hot comb crocheting the air,

burning a sacred incense.

See your momma parting your hair, brining iron to nap,

“Hold your ear baby,” she tells you.

So she can press Africa out.

When Black girls ask, “Is it real?” Say yes.

When white girls ask, “Can I touch it?” Say no.


2. See natural. Reference Angela Davis,

Dorothy Pitman Hughes.

Comb yours out. Twist yours like black licorice,

like the lynching rope

used on your ancestors’ necks.

Let it hang




1. Reference Lucille Clifton and every other big girl

who knows how to work a Hula-Hoop.

See Beyoncé. Dance like her in the mirror.

Do not be afraid of all your powers.


2. You will not fit in

most places. Do not

bend, squeeze, contort yourself.

Be big, brown girl.

Big wide smile.

Big wild hair.

Big wondrous hips.

Brown girl, be.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Body & Body Image


Intersectionality & Culture

Literary Devices:


an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference


a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences


a line break interrupting the middle of a phrase which continues on to the next line