Release Date: August 28, 2014
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
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.(courtesy of Goodreads)
It's wonderful to find books that live up to their hype. Brown Girl Dreaming has been getting praise and awards from every corner. Often these award winning books are like award winning movies. Artsy and well-done but not something you'd enjoy reading. Brown Girl Dreaming is just as compelling as it is well written.
This is a book in verse. I've never developed a love for poetry, but I've always enjoyed reading novels in verse. I love the wordplay in this novel. The text flows incredibly well and incredibly quickly. This book could be read in a few hours, but it's also the kind of book that calls for time to think about the words. Not only do the words flow well, but the words themselves are beautiful. Within the first few pages, I was nearly drawn to tears. Not because something tragic happened, but because the simplicity of the words draw out such emotion.
It would be easy, but wrong to pigeon-hole this as a book about the Civil Rights Era. It is set during that time and the discrimination against black people and the protests for rights are a significant and important part of the plot. But this book is much more than that. It's about Jacqueline's life. Her childhood experiences. Her family. Her dreams. I think this is one of the most important aspects of the book. There is something for everyone to identify with in this book. Some aspect of Jackie's childhood - her personality, her life experiences, her imperfect family - any reader will see him or herself in Jackie's life. That makes the Civil Rights aspect more powerful. It's easier for a young reader to understand the importance of Civil Rights and treating people with dignity if he or she can put themselves in Jackie's shoes.
If I could describe this book in one word, I would choose "Love." Jackie had many wonderful people in her life who loved her and who she loved in return. The depiction of her grandparents is particularly evoking. Jackie's family had their share of problems. This book does not avoid difficult topics like divorce, death, parents leaving, and illness, etc. It handles these issues in a way that is easy for children to handle without sugar-coating them. Jackie did not have a perfect childhood, but she was well-loved.
This is classified as historical fiction, I believe. My guess is that it's pretty close to being true. I think where the fiction part comes in is the timing. The beginning of the book includes a family tree. Events in the books, like births and deaths, do not always coincide with the dates noted in the tree. That doesn't bother me. I firmly believe that the spirit of the book reflects Jackie's life.
It's been a few weeks since I finished this book. My memories of particular passages are not that strong. What has remained is emotion. I recall my emotions of reading this book. Sadness, happiness, but especially love. These emotions are just as powerful as when I initially finished the book, perhaps even stronger. It's a book that I will want to pick up again and again for the experience of reading.
Recommendation: Buy one for yourself. Then buy one for a friend. And another.
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