Citation to the 2018 Honorary Degree recipient
Presented by Hannah Baker-Siroty, Assistant Professor
of English: Writing and Literature and College Composition
May 20th, 2018
Renée Watson is the author of picture books, young adult novels, and anthologies as well as a faculty member in Pine Manor College’s Solstice Graduate program in Creative Writing. Her recent novel, Piecing Me Together is a New York Times best seller. The novel received a Newbery Honor award, which is given annually to the most distinguished contribution in American literature for children. It was also the 2018 winner of the Coretta Scott King Book Award, which honors an outstanding contribution to young adult literature by an African American author.
Her children’s picture books and teen novels are dedicated to social justice and have received several awards and international recognitions, including for her novel This Side of Home and for the picture book Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills, which earned an NAACP Image Award nomination in children’s debuted in 2010 as a New Voice in middle grade fiction. She has received the American Library Association Best Teen Novel Nomination in 2015 and 2017, and in 2014 she was a Keynote Speaker at the United Nations Headquarters at the International Symposium for Cultural Diplomacy. In addition to all of this Renée Watson received a bachelor’s degree and a Creative Arts Therapy Certificate in Drama and Art Therapy from The New School in New York City.
Renée Watson’s characters are vibrant, nuanced, and reflective of being a young person today, so it is no wonder that she has been recognized as an important voice for her remarkable contribution to literature. Her activism is reflected in her work, like her novel This Side of Home, which explores gentrification in Portland, Oregon—where she was raised.
In addition to Renée Watson’s literary achievements, she was featured this past April on CBS this Morning for her work founding the “I, Too Arts Collective,” an organization committed to nurturing underrepresented voices in the creative arts. She launched and helped crowdsource funding to open up Langston Hughes’ Harlem brownstone as a public arts space. This example of her passion to bring together arts, as well as preserve important landmarks in our collective cultural legacy are significant achievements. As an instructor here at Pine Manor she has enlightened many about issues of social justice and everyday struggles of young people—especially teens of color. We are honored to count Renée Watson as one of our faculty and pleased to award her this honorary degree for her tireless work improving social justice in our community through her writing, activism, and teaching.