July 27, 2015

Book Review: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Title: Brown Girl Dreaming
Author: Jacqueline Woodson

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.

I really enjoyed this book.  I had the ARC sitting on my shelf for awhile and knew that it had won awards and received a lot of praise, but I just hadn't read it yet.  So when it was on the list for the media specialist class I was taking I was happy because I knew now I would read it! 

This is a piece of nonfiction about Woodson's life.  It starts from the day she was born and the argument about what to name her.  From there we see her grow up first living in the North, then the South with her grandparents and then back to the North again.  

The language in this book is amazing.  It's told in verse, and what she captures in the few words of some of the poems is filled with imagery and detail.  I'm always amazed on how verse can capture a full scene and place me in it with such few words! There is a scene in the book where they are taking their bath and redoing their hair and hair ribbons.  I could see it all!  As a teacher this is the type of writing I show my students, so they see what is possible.  

What is also fantastic about this book is watching her grow up in a very turbulent and active time in our country.  I loved hearing about from first a young girl really almost unaware to the voice of someone older who sees what is happening and is struggling with it.  And what added was that not only is Woodson struggling with the larger picture of what was happening in the country - she is also struggling with who she is within her own family.  That is a theme that kids can relate to - how do I fit.  

In the end it was fascinating to see how Woodson grew from a young girl into someone who found her voice and how to use it.  Very well done.  

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