Brown Girl Dreaming is a beautiful memoir of Jacqueline Woodson’s upbringing in South Carolina and Brooklyn written in verse. The entire book flows in dreamy poetry as she describes how growing up African American in the 60s and 70s in the US wasn’t always easy, but how she finds happiness in writing and starts to figure out her place in the world.
“How can I explain to anyone that stories are like air to me, I breathe them in and let them out over and over again.”
This is one of the first books I’ve read that’s been written in verse, but I loved it immediately. The writing style was perfect for this story. Each poem was like a snapshot of a moment from Jacqueline Woodson’s past, like an extracted memory stored in a bottle and revealed like the silvery, hair-like wisps in Albus Dumbledore’s Pensieve, but read together, the poems created a complete, vivid and intimate description of her childhood that made this book so incredible, emotional and heart-warming.
Growing up, Jacqueline Woodson’s time was divided amongst Ohio, South Carolina, and later, New York (Brooklyn). Each area provided a different experience and a vastly different culture, which made this book such a rich description of the growth of the civil rights movement across a variety of social settings and geographic locales. Through her eyes as a child, noticing how the adults walked, talked and dreamed, she manages to make the subtle differences in the South versus the North clear without having to point it out explicitly to us readers.
“Even the silence has a story to tell you.
Just listen. Listen.”
It wasn’t until after I finished it and was about to write my review that I realized that this book is rated middle grade. It is absolutely well accessible for middle grade readers, but I can guarantee that adult readers will enjoy this wonderful, evocative and impactful story just as much.
Overall, this was a very moving and thought-provoking story that raised awareness and provided so much insight to really important and difficult topics, while also being joyful, beautiful and easy to read. I recommend it with all my heart to readers of any age!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Jacqueline Woodson