Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

“I believe in one day and someday and this perfect moment called Now.”

brown girl dreaming

Synopsis from GoodreadsJacqueline 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.

Feelings: When I picked this book up, I had just finished teaching Ann E. Burg’s All the Broken Pieces to my 7th grade class and we all loved it. I was really in the mood for another round of historical fiction written in verse (while this book IS historical, it’s a memoir…so it isn’t fiction.) I really appreciated that Woodson included some background, historical information right off the bat. She really set the stage so that you understand the role of African Americans the year she was born, so that you understand the world she was brought up in.

There were a lot of layers to this story: politics, religion, history, family, identity. All of these topics are relatable to everyone on some level. However, the issues she dealt with in her lifetime and still felt today amongst many people groups. Considering all that’s going on in our world today, this book is very much relevant.

I love some good figurative language and this book was bursting at the seams with it. One of my favorites is the metaphor for ribbons anchoring the young girls to their childhood. What a beautiful picture of innocence and growing up. I love the character(s) called “Coraandhersisters.” That made me laugh out loud every time. That’s such a Southern thing.

Issues: The present verb tense is not my favorite. I don’t know why, but it throws me off my reading game every time. It really wasn’t until I was about 3/4 through the book that I realized how powerful it was. I was listening to the audiobook and realized that it was being read by the author. I paused for a moment and thought about how she had to put herself back into her child mind and see the world again through those innocent eyes. After that, I enjoyed the present tense element.

Final thoughts: This took me a while to get in to. Honestly, halfway through the book when I realized she was calling her grandpa “Daddy” (I think I missed when that reference started), I had an emotional connection to the story. My own grandfather is very sick right now, so the second half of the book was really relevant to me. I thought the last few pages were especially powerful, not just for my family situation, but for the world as a whole, with all the heartbreak going on everywhere. I even listened to Woodson read the Author’s Note at the end because I was frozen from the last few pages. It’s a good read, too. I wish I had read this a little more slowly, taking it in a bit at a time. So, that’s my recommendation to you. Let it marinate.

Pick this up if you liked:

All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg (historical fiction also written in verse, I teach this book and we all LOVE it)

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (see my full review here)

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Goodreads rating: 4.03/5 rating: 4.8/5

My rating: 4.25/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn


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