Brown Girl Dreaming was last modified: November 2nd, 2015 by Jenny Sawyer
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Posted on by Jenny Sawyer
Title: The Hired Girl
Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Title: Bellweather Rhapsody
Author: Kate Racculia
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Genre: Poetry (YA, autobiography)
Year published: 2014
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Length: 336 evocative, poignant pages
In Brown Girl Dreaming, 2014’s National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature, author Jacqueline Woodson paints a picture in words of her coming-of-age years. Of the life of family and tradition she knew in South Carolina as a little girl. Of the life of expanding horizons she found in New York City. Of sit-ins and Civil Rights protests that sparked excitement, but also anxiety, in the black community. What was a young girl to make of it all? Fortunately for Woodson, she had the gift of words to help her process the hardship, heartache, and epic social shifts she witnessed firsthand. Brown Girl Dreaming is a beautiful portrait of a time and place that shaped Woodson—and our world today.
Before I launched 60second Recap, I had the pleasure of reviewing several of Jacqueline Woodson’s books for other publications. Which is to say, I’m a fan. But while I liked Woodson’s other books, I loved her newest title: Brown Girl Dreaming.
Novels in verse aren’t for everyone, but the way each short poem provides a “snapshot” of a time and place in Woodson’s growing-up years— South Carolina and New York in the 1960s and 70s—seems to work well as a way for Woodson to remember, and for her readers to be transported to the various moments, big and small, that made Woodson the writer she is today. From the afternoons spent at her grandfather’s bedside, to early dinners on a front stoop in New York City, sharing ethnic cuisine with her best friend, these snapshots help Woodson come alive, and these unfamiliar times and places to become vivid realities for young readers. Woodson always chooses her words carefully, but some of the lyrical verses in this story seem especially vivid.
Mostly what I appreciated about Brown Girl Dreaming, though, is the way Woodson takes the personal and makes it universal. Yes, this is a story about her own coming-of-age. But bigger than that is her message to every reader: There’s a gift inside of you. Find it. Use it. Become the person you only dreamed of becoming. The person you’re meant to be.