For 40 days, I am choosing a book from my personal book shelves. It will be a book that is insightful, intriguing, or illuminating about women. I will write why I think this book is a positive one and worth a read. This isn’t advertising for me or to promote any of my friends. It’s simply praise for good books.
Day 15, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
When Jacqueline was a year old, her mother moved from Ohio to her own parents’ home in South Carolina. This was a bold move for an African American woman with three children in 1963, but despite the turmoil of the times, young Jacqueline grew up loving the place that had made her mother homesick. When Jacqueline was older, her mother took a job in New York City, and Jacqueline had to readjust and learn to love a new place—which she did. Brown Girl Dreaming is a memoir delivered in verse. It’s told through incidents and memories that contrast slow, community-oriented South Carolina to the fast-moving diversity of Brooklyn through the eyes of an adolescent. Like many children, Jacqueline follows a parent who moves her family for economic security; her personal growth involves learning to be a city mouse but also appreciating her country mouse side. Layered into her family story are bigger events of the time, as she observes and ponders moments children and adults would recognize from the Civil Rights Movement. Each poem describes in sharp, poignant, evocative language a step in this writer’s journey to understand her world and find her true self in a sometimes hostile, sometimes encouraging, time of change.
Why is Brown Girl Dreaming a good read for women? The book is personal, warm, and optimistic—a reflection, I suspect, of the author herself. It is a highly honored book for young readers—recipient of the National Book Award and a Newbury Honor Book medal. It is simply a stunningly lovely work of art. The author chose a unique storytelling style—poetry as memoir—and delivers the verse in bright colors and vivid images. Woodson has been quoted as writing “as an adolescent for adolescents” but the book is layered and deep, and any reader, adult or child, will get lost in the world of her writing.