brown girl dreaming
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Published: August 28, 2014 by Nancy Paulsen Books
Summary: 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.
Praise for Jacqueline Woodson:
Ms. Woodson writes with a sure understanding of the thoughts of young people, offering a poetic, eloquent narrative that is not simply a story . . . but a mature exploration of grown-up issues and self-discovery.”—The New York Times Book Review
Ricki’s Review: This beautifully poignant book in verse captured my heart. I was swept away in the beauty of Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical memories. This is a book that will embrace readers, wrapping them in Woodson’s childhood in the stormy 1960s. I couldn’t help but read and reread portions of the text–for every few pages that I read, I needed to flip back and relive the beauty of the previous verses. I will cherish this book, reading it again and again, for every word feels intentional and every memory vivid. brown girl dreaming is timeless, and it is universal. Above all, this book will give readers insight–unfolding the experiences of a “brown” child living during the heat of the civil rights movement; a young girl growing up in a house that identifies as Jehovah’s Witnesses; and a young writer, struggling to find the perfect words to reveal the truth. It will touch the hearts of readers of all backgrounds and ages in its messages of family, friendship, strength, and hope.
Kellee’s Review: Wow. I often worry about reading a book that has a lot of hype around it because I fear that I will not love it as much as others do. I should not have been worried about this book. It is beautiful. As Ricki said, I found myself rereading portions of the text just because of how well the verse flowed. By the end of this book, you will wish that you were Woodson’s friend and that you you could write as well as she does. The stories she tells are so true and heartfelt that you live her life along with her through the pages. You experience with her the hardship of growing up in the 1960s and 70s during the Civil Rights movement; the challenge of religion and finding the truth in it; the loss, addition, and conflict of family and everything that comes with these changes; and trying to find an identity as a person, sister, daughter, student and a writer. It is only a truly powerful, well-written book that can make you feel all of these elements.
Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Writers will feel inspired by Woodson’s verse, and it would make an excellent mentor text for students to learn more about themselves and their own childhoods. We would suggest pairing passages with “I Am From” poems for students to be inspired to write verse memoirs of their own experiences. The figurative language and detail of this text make it a phenomenal resource for teachers, and we would find great value in close readings of Woodson’s intentional use of words and phrasing.
Discussion Questions: How does Jacqueline Woodson come to find herself? What are the strongest influences on her identity?; In what ways does Woodson show the power of family? How do Woodson’s siblings impact her decisions?; What role does history play in this book?; In what ways does Woodson manipulate words, phrasing, and white space? How does this influence your reading?
“Then I let the stories live
inside my head, again and again
until the real world fades back
into cricket lullabies
and my own dreams.” (p. 99)
“Sometimes, she pulls a chair to the window, looks
down over the yard.
The promise of glittering sidewalks feels a long time
behind us now, no diamonds anywhere to be found.
But some days, just after snow falls,
the sun comes out, shines down on the promise
of that tree from back home joining us here.
Shines down over the bright white ground.
And on those days, so much light and warmth fills
that it’s hard not to believe
in a little bit
of everything.” (p. 285)
Please Note: The above excerpts are from advanced reader copies. The wording and punctuation may be different in the published text. Our blog interface does not allow us to accurately capture the indentions, but we wanted you to see the beauty of Woodson’s language.
Read This If You Loved: Other books by Jacqueline Woodson, The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon, Sold by Patricia McCormick, Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff, Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis, Gaither Sisters (series) by Rita Williams- Garcia, Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, The Silence of our Friends by Mark Long