(Image from Barnes & Noble)
I've long been a fan of Jacqueline Woodson, an African-American author who writes books about race relations in a way that's realistic, but also fresh and thoughtful. Her novels always make me think. Several of them are written in verse, so it's not too surprising that her newest book is as well. Brown Girl Dreaming is not, however, a novel. It's a memoir. The tale of Jacqueline Woodson herself. And it's just as impacting as any of her other stories.
Woodson was born in Columbus, Ohio, not far from where her slave ancestors toiled from sunup to sundown in someone else's fields. She came into the world on an ordinary day in 1963. At that time, the South was simmering, about to explode. People like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X were stirring the pot, calling for equality, for new laws that would ensure little brown girls like Jacqueline would grow up with the same rights as their white counterparts.
In the middle of all that, Jacqueline had her own, more personal trials. Moving from a mixed neighborhood in Ohio to a colored one in North Carolina brought new experiences. When her mother took off for New York, leaving her children to be raised by their maternal grandmother, Jacqueline was introduced to the Jehovah's Witness religion. A later move to Brooklyn, New York, caused her to feel even more displaced.
As Jacqueline struggled to make sense of her world and the unique circumstances of her life, she realized she had a gift. Her ability to capture thoughts and ideas in words helped her to discover who she was, where she'd been, and who she was meant to be.
Like Woodson's previous work, Brown Girl Dreaming exudes warmth and tenderness. It's a touching book, but one that's surprisingly funny. Although it discusses serious subjects (racism, child abandonment, etc.), it's uplifting, encouraging and hopeful. Woodson's poetry has a richness to it that just shouldn't be missed. As soon as my own little girl gets old enough, you can be sure I'll be thrusting this remarkable, Newbery Honor-winning memoir into her beautiful brown hands.
(Readalikes: Reminded me of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for some mature themes (racism, child abandonment, etc.)
To the FTC, with love: Another library