brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Pub. Date: August 28, 2014
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin!!)
Summary: In vivid poems, award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson shares what it was like to grow up in the 1960s and 1970s in both the North and the South. Raised in South Carolina and later New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place, and she describes the reality of living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the civil rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world.
Genre: YA/MG, Memoir, Verse
Writing a review for brown girl dreaming doesn’t seem fair at all. How does someone rate a memoir? A biography? A young girl’s life so beautifully-written and heartbreaking it steals your breath away? brown girl dreaming is so much more than I could ever say and my words could never compare to Woodson’s.
Initially I was a bit hesitant to try out a novel written in verse. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to ‘get it,’ that I wouldn’t be able to get a real feel for the characters and the setting. ..haha! Ms. Woodson stomped all over my reservations and I tore through this book in a day. I was floored by the power of her words and as I’m writing this review I’m noticing the effect it’s had: my normally long-winded and flowery sentences and short and direct. Half a sentence in some cases! A month later brown girl dreaming still lingers in my mind and made a lasting impression.
Jacqueline was born in Ohio and moved to South Carolina a few years later. Even as a child she noticed the differences between the North and the South. In South Carolina she could only visit certain restaurants, use certain restrooms. Her grandparents were her rock, however – particularly her beloved grandfather, Daddy. The way she wrote about these two wonderful people it was clearly evident she thought – and still thinks! – the world of them. They were her stable footing in a world vastly different than the one she had come from. When her mother became a part of the civil rights movement and left for New York, Jacqueline and her siblings stayed behind, always looking forward to the phone calls and that far-away day when their family would be reunited.
Ms. Woodson writes openly about death, prison, race. That she’s so matter-of-fact about it, this is how it is is shocking and painful. As a Middle Class White girl, so many things Jacqueline dealt with on a daily basis have never been set before me and to see the world from her perspective brought me to tears multiple times. I’m still struggling to gather my thoughts; brown girl dreaming was that bittersweet and beautiful.
Nothing I say could possible do this gorgeous story justice. brown girl dreaming is an emotional, raw, heart-wrenching look into a young girl’s life and it broke me. I didn’t tear up, I sobbed. I cheered Jacqueline on as she discovered her love of writing, I laughed right along with her as she played with her best friend. Any worry I had about the verse format completely and utterly vanished and I feel silly for ever having worried in the first place. Jacqueline Woodson has solidified her place in literature and I’m ashamed and embarrassed to say brown girl dreaming is my introduction to her work. Her books have won multiple awards: the Newbery, the Caldecott, National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, a lifetime achievement award, the list goes on and on. Now that I’m aware of her work (and their impact) I’ve got some catching up to do.
brown girl dreaming is a book I need to own in hardback; a review copy just won’t cut it. This is a story I want to cherish and share and I want it to have a permanent place on my shelves. There are so many words I keep repeating: gorgeous, beautiful, raw, heart-breaking, and although I feel like a broken record, brown girl dreaming IS all of these things – and so, so much more. I cannot say enough about this memoir. Go out and buy a copy now.
I want to write this down, that the revolution is like
a merry-go-round, history always being made
somewhere. And maybe for a short time, we’re a part of that history. And then the ride stops
and our turn is over.
Even the silence
has a story to tell you.
Just listen. Listen.