Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Sandra Jackson-Opoku  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction Poetry

Audience: Adult;

Born: 1953 in Chicago, Illinois

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Illinois Connection

Jackson-Opoku was born and raised in Chicago. She attended Columbia College in Chicago for three years, majoring in Journalism.

Biographical and Professional Information

Sandra Jackson-Opoku is an award-winning poet, journalist and novelist. She has authored two novels and edited ''Revise the Psalm: Work Celebrating the Writing of Gwendolyn Brooks'' with Illinois author, Quraysh Ali Lansana. Her fiction, poetry, articles, essays, and scripts have appeared in ''Essence Magazine'', ''Los Angeles Times'' Travel Section, ''Ms. Magazine'', ''The Literary Traveler'', ''Islands Magazine'', and others. Her work has earned awards like the SCBWI Kimberly Colen Award for New Children’s Writing, an American Antiquarian Society Fellowship for Creative Writers, the National Endowment for the Arts Fiction Fellowship, an Africa Writers Fellowship from the Ragsdale Foundation, a CCLM/General Electric Fiction Award for Younger Writers, and an Illinois Arts Council Finalist Award. Her first novel, ''The River Where Blood is Born,'' earned the American Library Association Black Caucus Award for Best Fiction and second novel, ''Hot Johnny and the Women Who Loved Him,'' was an ''Essence Magazine'' bestseller. Jackson-Opoku also teaches literature and creative writing at schools, universities, workshops, and youth programs around the world. She has been on faculty at Columbia College Chicago, the University of Miami, Nova Southeastern University, and the Writer’s Studio at the University of Chicago. She currently teaches in the English Department at Chicago State University where she serves as Fiction Coordinator of the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

The River Where Blood Is Born (Ballantine Reader's Circle)
ISBN: 034542476X

One World. 1998

This astonishing novel takes us on a journey along the river of one family's history, carving a course across two centuries and three continents, from ancient Africa into today's America. Here, through the lives of Mother Africa's many daughters, we come to understand the real meaning of roots: the captive Proud Mary, who has been savagely punished for refusing to relinquish her child to slavery Earlene, who witnesses her father's murder at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan Big Momma, a modern-day matriarch who can make a woman of a girl proud and sassy Cinnamon Brown, whose wild abandon hides a bitter loss and smart, ambitious Alma, who is torn between the love of a man and the song of her soul.

In The River Where Blood Is Born, the seen and unseen worlds are seamlessly joined--the spirit realms where the great river goddess and ancestor mothers watch over the lives of their descendants, both the living and those not yet born. Stringing beads of destiny, they work to lead one daughter back to her source. But what must Alma sacrifice to honor the River Mother's call?

Hot Johnny (and the Women Who Loved Him)
ISBN: 0345435087

One World/Ballantine. 2002

Like a ray of sun that can warm your skin for a moment but can’t be captured, John the Baptist Wright has touched the lives of many women–heart, body, and soul. Now, in this enthralling new novel by award-winning author Sandra Jackson-Opoku, we hear from the women who gave Hot Johnny his heat.

Each woman has a distinct voice and her own point of view. Among them is Destiny, the damaged young woman he married, but cannot save Lola Belle, the white lesbian with something to prove and nothing to lose Tree, the college soulmate, whose first taste of tenderness came from Hot Johnny’s touch Peaches, the prostitute who gave the boy his name and sealed his reputation and Gracita Reina “Queen of Grace,” his great-grandmother, who holds the key to Johnny’s salvation. Each woman provides a piece of the puzzle that is Hot Johnny–the result is a captivating portrait of a complex man who is both saint and sinner, hero and villain, and all the shadings in between.

A deeply felt and emotionally involving tale, Sandra Jackson-Opoku has done nothing less than illuminate the secret places of a man’s soul–and created a powerful novel of destiny and redemption. . . .

Sea Island Summer
ISBN: 0786804319

Hyperion. 2005


The River Where Blood is Born

  • Black Caucus Award for Best Fiction, American Library Association, 1998

    Speaking Engagements

    Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)

    Contact Information

    Shena Patel c/o One World/Ballentine 201 East 50th Street New York, New York 10022 212-572-2713