Brown Girl Dreaming

Finished Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, 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. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.”

Jacqueline Woodson was born in February of 1963.  A few months later, my birth mother was born.  I mention that because I spent the entire time reading this novel thinking how insane it was that people were treated this way so close to our current time.  You know? It wasn’t that long ago that “Negro” was written on birth certificates or that minorities had to step off the sidewalk if there were white people on it.  This doesn’t feel possible and yet obviously it happened.  But it’s within my closest blood relative’s lifetime.  It’s easy to think of this as something that happened forever ago, but it’s not.

But, while there are a lot of horrible things in this book, it’s not really about racism or civil rights.  It’s how one young girl finds her voice.  That’s something that everyone can identify with, regardless of color or religion or orientation or whatever.  At the same time, it’s also important to remember that some of us find it’s much easier to find our voice, that many of us don’t have to work anywhere near as hard to make people listen to what we have to say.

This was my first Jacqueline Woodson book and I think it was the perfect one to start with.  This is nonfiction (her others are all novels, I believe) and it is just gorgeously written.  I definitely plan to read more of hers (she tackles subjects like racism, grief, teen pregnancy and drug addiction) and hopefully eventually read them all.  (She has an extensive backlist, which is a really nice thing to find when I discover a new author I love.)

Highly recommended.


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