Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Brown Girl Dreaming

Summary (from Goodreads):
National Book Award Winner

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.
What a great reading week I have had! I have read one book of short stories, one graphic novel, and now one autobiography done in verse and I have loved each and every one of these books, particularly this one. I have read a couple other books by this author, though, none since I was a teen. Both the title and the gorgeous cover put it on my radar early on and I made sure to order it for my library right when it came out. I admit though, that I didn’t pick it up to read myself until after it won the National Book Award, by which point, I was dying to read it. It sounded so good!
The whole thing is written in poetry. But, it’s narrative poetry (like two of my all time favorite YA Books: What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones and True Believer by Virgina Euwer Wolff).  They are told poetically, but the poetry makes up one large story. I must admit I have not read a ton of books in this format, but since I have had good experience with this in the past, I wasn’t too hesitant about the style. I can see how it might turn away a few reluctant readers though.
Any way, after all that, what I wanted to say is it’s beautiful. Literally, there were passages I’d re-read several times, just to soak up the words. Some of it even demands to be read out loud. Certain poems were goose bump inducing.
A lot of the book deals with racism and civil rights. I think my favorite passages are the ones that cover these topics. But, a lot of the book is also about family and family history. I loved the differences between the north and the south, and how we got to go back and forth between them. I loved the differences among the siblings. And I loved seeing this world in such a different, unique perspective.
The passages about religion and being different from the other kids (always) just makes it impossible not to love Jacqueline. Her sense of justice and self worth (as a child) is so powerful. And I loved her family too. At the end of the book, are real-life photographs of the characters from the story. And my heart just about melted looking at her grandfather. He was my favorite character.
Also there was so much in here about writing, and dreaming about being a writer. I loved how important words were. And I loved the concepts of stories being passed along through the generations. There was one part where Jacqueline could only partially pass the stories she heard to her siblings because she wasn’t allowed to hear the rest, so she just made up her own endings. She loved making up words and stories.
One of my favorite passages, that I’ve re-read over and over comes toward the end in a chapter/poem called “Revolution.” This is the middle of the poem:

            When I hear the word
            I think of the carousel with
            all those beautiful horses
            going around as though they’ll never stop and me
            choosing the purple one each time, climbing up and onto it
            and reaching for the golden ring, as soft music plays.

            The revolution is always going to be happening.

            I want to write this down, that the revolution is like
            a merry-go-round, history always being made
            somewhere. And maybe for a short time,
            we’re a part of that history. And then the ride stops
            and our turn is over. (pg 308-309)

I keep making comparisons in my head between this book and Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street. They are very different stories, but they both so strongly deal with the topics of home and family from a very young and powerful perspective. And I can see this book growing to the popularity level of Cisneros’ work.
I slowly devoured this one. You will read it and just want to soak up the words. But, it also moves rather quickly. You want to see how things go for Jacqueline and her siblings. I loved it. I give it a 10/10.

No comments:

Post a Comment