Brown Girl Dreaming Paperback – October 11, 2016
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* “Mesmerizing journey through [Woodson’s] early years. . . . Her perspective on the volatile era in which she grew up is thoughtfully expressed in powerfully effective verse. . . . With exquisite metaphorical verse Woodson weaves a patchwork of her life experience . . . that covers readers with a warmth and sensitivity no child should miss. This should be on every library shelf.” — School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
* “Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned. For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share.” — Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
* “[Woodson’s] memoir in verse is a marvel, as it turns deeply felt remembrances of Woodson’s preadolescent life into art. . . . Her mother cautions her not to write about her family but, happily, many years later, she has and the result is both elegant and eloquent, a haunting book about memory that is itself altogether memorable. — Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
* “A memoir-in-verse so immediate that readers will feel they are experiencing the author’s childhood right along with her. . . . Most notably of all, perhaps, we trace her development as a nascent writer, from her early, overarching love of stories through her struggles to learn to read through the thrill of her first blank composition book to her realization that ‘words are [her] brilliance.’ The poetry here sings: specific, lyrical, and full of imagery. An extraordinary—indeed brilliant—portrait of a writer as a young girl.” — The Horn Book, STARRED REVIEW
* “The effect of this confiding and rhythmic memoir is cumulative, as casual references blossom into motifs and characters evolve from quick references to main players. . . . Revealing slices of life, redolent in sight, sound, and emotion. . . . Woodson subtly layers her focus, with history and geography the background, family the middle distance, and her younger self the foreground. . . . Eager readers and budding writers will particularly see themselves in the young protagonist and recognize her reveling in the luxury of the library and unfettered delight in words. . . . A story of the ongoing weaving of a family tapestry, the following of an individual thread through a gorgeous larger fabric, with the tacit implication that we’re all traversing such rich landscapes. It will make young readers consider where their own threads are taking them.” — The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, STARRED REVIEW
* “Woodson uses clear, evocative language. . . . A beautifully crafted work.” — Library Media Connection, STARRED REVIEW
About the Author
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Growing up in the south in an era where so much change was taking place, where children were surrounded from the outside with the message to be proud, and where the message from the older generation was still to avoid eye contact, you might expect more anger, more focus on the ugly side of that time. It’s not glossed over, it’s that the focus for those years shared in “Brown Girl Dreaming” is love for the place, the people and her memories. The nostalgia is sweet without sacrificing any truth, her power in the restraint she shows.
“The first time I write my full name Jacqueline Amanda Woodson without anybody’s help on a clean white page in composition notebook, I know if I wanted to I could write anything. Letters becoming words, words gathering meaning, becoming thoughts outside my head becoming sentences written by Jacqueline Amanda Woodson.”
This is the story of one girl finding her voice.
This is also the story of a part of America’s racial history.
This is Woodson’s story, but it’s also a story that is part of all of us.
“The people who came before me worked so hard to make this world a better place for me. I know my work is to make the world a better place for those coming after. As long as I can remember this, I can continue to do the work I was put here to do.”
This is perhaps aimed at a YA audience as most of her books are but I didn't view it that way. I think anyone of any age can appreciate this story of her family, the places she lived, the times in which she grew up, how her writing life developed and how she followed her dream . I can't say enough about the beautiful writing. She has provided us a tremendous sense of time and place growing up in the 1960's and 1970's in Greenville, SC and Brooklyn, NY. and the inner thoughts of a young girl who dreams of becoming a writer.
Just before this I read a copy of Woodson's new book [book:Another Brooklyn|27213163], to be published on 8/9/16 and I'll say the same thing here as I did in my review of it , she was born to write and I am grateful for profound experience it was for me to see her journey.
I recalled the History of New York from what I had learned in my elementary school: the Dutch, Peter Stuyvesant and the slaves. In brown girl dreaming, I came away loving the trips so many of us have made from the North to the South and back again. I will think more about the role religion plays in our lives. I found it easy to put away the negative words I have heard about a place called Kingdom Hall and congregations called Jehovah Witnesses. Most of all I will continue to ponder the importance of a girl coming of age in the United States. Last but not least, there is the light seen by a teacher in a student. I am thinking of the teacher who told Jacqueline Woodson she should become a writer.
Throughout the novel, the poetry is indeed "mesmerizing--and inspiring."vogue.com/13470421/jacqueline-woodson-another-brooklyn-novel-interview/
Jacqueline Woodson’s autobiographical story of her youth, written in lyrical free verse, made me feel like I was sitting beside her, listening to her tell me about her childhood. I could practically feel the hot southern summer air and taste her mother’s fried chicken.
BROWN GIRL DREAMING is a masterpiece worth reading.
Top international reviews
Woodson is a black American, and tells her story as a `brown girl' born in 1963, both as her own, individual family story and the wider story of black history from a particular time and place. She is an award winning writer for children and teens, but her reach goes way beyond being confined to appeal `only to children'
In many ways, I think the challenge involved in recognising that children are completely capable of understanding great and subtle complexity of meaning, but that they may not have quite the sophistication of adult vocabulary, is a brilliant discipline for a writer - it hones their craft. Some writing about complexity for adults leads to writing becoming over fussy, even designed to confuse or show off dexterity, but the really excellent writer who chooses to write for a younger audience - like Woodson - somehow keeps all the layers of meaning held within simply arresting, clear images, clear language
I had to take this clear and pared down book extremely slowly and very carefully, anxious not to miss anything.
Woodson's words are spoken softly, but they are powerful, and her images rolled unstoppably over me, leaving me, many times, breathlessly weeping
The starting point, is a poem by Langston Hughes, the rest of the story is Woodson's
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow
Born in Ohio, but raised also in South Carolina, where her mother and her father's mother were from, she tells of an experience from the North and the South.
She reminds us that in 1963:
In Birmingham, Alabama, Martin Luther King Jr.
is planning a march on Washington, where
John F. Kennedy is president.
In Harlem, Malcolm X is standing on a soapbox
talking about a revolution
In Montgomery, only seven years have passed
since Rosa Parks refused
to give up
her seat on a city bus
She recounts the confusing experience of marital break-up, from the child's viewpoint, and the pain when families are torn apart, the conflicts when the people you love are no longer all living together - a sense that `home' is forever lost because it now belongs in several different places
Our feet are beginning to belong
in two different worlds-Greenville
and New York. We don't know how to come
To set against the pain of loss and breakup as relationships end and the older generation who were strong and powerful become frail and the ones to be looked after, is Jacqueline's secret excitement at beginning to master words, to discover that she is, she will be, a teller or stories
For days and days, I could only sniff the pages
hold the notebook close
listen to the sound the papers made.
Nothing in the world is like this-
a bright white page with
pale blue lines. The smell of a newly sharpened pencil
the soft hush of it
This would indeed be a wonderful book for a child, and probably an even more wonderful one for parents and children to find delight in together.
Perhaps if my expectations had not been so high I would be giving this book a higher rating right now. As it is, I have positive and negative things to say about it. On the positive side, it is a lovely feel-good childhood memoir. It provided me when many, many, warm-and-fuzzy feelings throughout. You really feel that the author felt deeply loved as a child, although, if you read between the lines, it is pretty obvious that she was probably quite poor growing up, her father seems to have abandoned the family, and then her mother suddenly gets pregnant by an unidentified man, and the father of that boy (Roman) seems to be absent as well. Plus, the mother’s sister dies in a terrible accident and her brother spends time in jail. So, from an adult perspective, although tragedies befall this family (it certainly isn’t a bed of roses), the grandparents’ and mother’s love for the children is absolutely palpable and a delight to behold. The children clearly love and support one another as well, which personally I think is a rare gift. The character I loved the most was “Daddy”, the children’s grandfather; I could practically hear his voice, see his lean, work-worn body, and feel the love that emanated from him. It was sad when he passed away, but Woodson really showed the reader what a blessing he was in their lives.
On the negative side, as I said earlier, I was not too impressed with Woodson’s “poetry”. Perhaps if it had been marketed as “prose-poetry” it would have been more accurate. After a while, the fact that it was just prose with judiciously-placed line breaks got on my nerves. Writing good poetry is a different art form from writing good prose. Personally, I found her style too predictable to be called poetry. I feel that good poetry should, through veiling and unveiling, hint at nuanced meanings that can be interpreted in multiple ways, and this book didn’t provide that.
This remarkable novel told in verse is the memoir of Jacqueline Woodson ( @jacqueline_woodson ). In these verses she shares what it was like to grow up in the 60's & 70's in South Carolina & New York amidst the remnants of Jim Crow and during the Civil Right Movement. I initially picked this book up because it seemed to be an easy and fun middle grade read. But it turned out to be so much more ...
As a woman of color it was refreshing to read about the hot comb, the freshly starched Sunday clothes and the colorful ribbons in her hair. Her stern but very warm and loving grand parents who would help raise her and her siblings put a smile on my face, simply because it made me realize that there are more similarities than differences when it comes to growing up black. Some things are the same no matter where you come from. 😊
For me, the most fascinating verses were those about anything Civil Right Movement related. It was interesting to learn about the training for the sit-ins and the non-violent marches that made a difference for colored people all over the world for decades to come. These actions were the beginning of the fight against segregation and discrimination of African Americans. The mind boggling thing about all of this is that historically speaking the 60's and 70's are not even that long ago 😳...
Brown girl dreaming won several awards and all of them are well deserved. This book was as pleasant as it was educational and I feel very blessed that this outstanding literary work was brought to my attention. I read the book while listening to the audio. The audiobook happens to be narrated by the author and that is always a plus. 4,5 out of 5 stars.
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