Renée Watson

Born: 1978

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.