book reviews, memoirs, nonfiction

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson #diversiverse

20660824brown girl dreaming
Jacqueline Woodson
338 pages
Published in August 2014 by Nancy Paulsen Books
Source: Public Library

The first time I write my full name

Jacqueline Amanda Woodson

without anybody’s help
on a clean white page in my composition notebook,
I know

if I wanted to

I could write anything.

brown girl dreaming is Jacqueline Woodson’s wonderful and poetic memoir about her “very complicated and very rich” childhood. Shortly after her birth in Columbus, Ohio in 1963, Woodson’s family moves to South Carolina, her mother’s home state. The author and her two siblings live with their maternal grandparents for years as their mother travel back and forth to New York, trying to make a life for them. It’s there in the South that Saturday nights “smell of biscuits”, Jacqueline gets her hands dirty in her grandfather’s garden, and sit-ins are happening downtown. In New York, rainy days now mean staying in the house and being introduced to a new baby brother. Written in verse, brown girl dreaming is a book that both young readers and adults can enjoy.

There are many things that make brown girl dreaming so special that it’s hard to even write about it. Woodson has this wonderful way of writing from a child’s point of view. Readers see a young Jacqueline fall in love with stories even though she struggles with writing and is compared to a brilliant older sister by teachers. Thrown in with these moments are the huge events that were going on in the country like the end of segregation and what that meant as she and her grandmother shopped downtown, watching the Black Panther Party on TV from across the country, and the Vietnam War.

brown girl dreaming was just nominated for a National Book Award in Young Adult Literature, a nomination it rightly deserves. You won’t regret reading it, so buy this book, don’t borrow it. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

22 thoughts on “brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson #diversiverse”

  1. I think the form–short, free verse poems–helps her recapture the immediacy of the child’s point of view, in the early sections.

  2. I’m sorry to say, I don’t usually like poetry, but this sounds wonderful. I have yet to read Woodson, another thing I’m sorry to say. Where should I start? Is here a good place?

  3. I love her fiction, but I didn’t realise she’d written a memoir too! How interesting that it’s a poem memoir. Hmmm.

  4. I’m finding that I have a hard time coming up with the words to describe this book, too. I just want to keep a stack of it and hand it out to everyone!

  5. I have a book by Woodson that I haven’t read yet. Don’t remember the title (it’s at home, I’m at work). This memoir looks wonderful.

  6. Sounds absolutely fantastic and the cover is just gorgeous. I just started Woman Hollering Creek and I’m loving the lyrical prose style–it’s been a long time since I’ve read something less straight forward. Forgot how beautiful it can be!

  7. I remember seeing this book somewhere recently, but I don’t recollect where. I love the title and the cover so the book is also on my wishlist. Glad to see that you recommend it!

  8. Sounds great, even though I am not usually a novels-in-poetry kind of gal. I read an interview with Woodson where she said a librarian took her to task for naming it “brown girl dreaming,” because that meant white girls wouldn’t want to read it. Yeesh. Not surprising, but very ugh.

    1. Ack! Comments like that are so frustrating! I bet if the book had been named “white girl dreaming,” that same librarian wouldn’t have complained or wondered if non-whites would read it. Ugh.


  9. Sorry it has taken me so long to get to this review, Natasha! It sounds like a great book, even though I am a little nervous about novels in verse. (Though I enjoyed Make Lemonade, which was in verse. I didn’t even realize it, since I read it as an audiobook.)

    Jenny’s comment from the librarian is so annoying! Ugh. As though people CANNOT read about other people’s lives! Also, no one would call the book “white girl dreaming.” They’d just call it “Girl Dreaming” and everyone would assume she was white.

Comments are closed.