Week Three: Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Woodson, J. (2014). Brown Girl Dreaming. New York, NY. Nancy Paulsen Books.

Summary: Woodson’s novel in verse chronicles her childhood post – Jim Crow and touches on growing up during the Civil Rights movement. Brown Girl Dreaming follows Woodson from her birth and family in Columbus, Ohio, to South Carolina and then to New York. The portrayal of her relationship with her grandparents is particularly moving, and the move from Greenville, South Carolina to New York is hard for Woodson. However, she is able to make friends with a young Hispanic girl named Maria and it is in New York City that Woodson discovers she wants to be a writer.

Thoughts: This book is gorgeous. I told a colleague recently that I wish I could just write the word “beautiful” over and over in this section, because that’s all I can think of when I think of Brown Girl Dreaming. Woodson’s imagery feels so real, her poetry paints vivid pictures for you of her childhood. I had read very few books in verse before I picked this up. I enjoy poetry when I read it, but I never actively seek it out. So this was a bit of a change for me and I was surprised at how much I absolutely loved it. Woodson’s memories of her time in Ohio were especially touching, because I grew up only about an hour east of Columbus. It felt personal and intimate to read those pieces of her life, because I too know that area so well. Woodson’s writing is absolutely gorgeous and I would recommend this in a heartbeat to middle grade readers, teens, and even adults.

From The New York Times Sunday Book Review: You can read “Brown Girl Dreaming” in one sitting, but it is as rich a spread as the potluck table at a family reunion. Sure, you can plow through the pages, grabbing everything you can in one go, like piling a plate high with fried chicken and ribs, potato salad and corn bread. And yes, it’s entirely possible to hold that plate with one hand while balancing a bowl of gumbo and a cup of sweet tea with the other. But since the food isn’t going anywhere, you’ll make out just as well, maybe even a little better, if you pace yourself. If you know Woodson’s work (which includes “Hush” and “This Is the Rope: A Story From the Great Migration”), read for her life story first:

Good enough name for me, my father said
the day I was born.
Don’t see why
she can’t have it, too.

But the women said no.
My mother first.
Then each aunt, pulling my pink blanket back
patting the crop of thick curls
tugging at my new toes
touching my cheeks.

We won’t have a girl named Jack, my mother said.

Chambers, V. (2014). Where we enter: Jacqueline Woodson’s ‘Brown Girl Dreaming.’ The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved June 27, 2017 from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/books/review/jacqueline-woodsons-brown-girl-dreaming.html

Potential Library Uses: I would save Brown Girl Dreaming for either a children’s poetry display or a kid’s (or teen) display featuring African American authors. It would be a perfect example for both.

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