Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Having read Another Brooklyn at the end of last year, I was curious to read Jacqueline Woodson's memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming. Well, memoir / book of poems / young adult novel. It was another quick read and I believe here, more than Another Brooklyn, did Woodson shine. True stories do that.
This memoir takes you through Woodson's childhood and adolescence, with episodes in Ohio, South Carolina and New York. It gives snippets of insight into the time in which she grew, family dynamics, a Bushwick of a few decades ago. There is innocence and naivety but, underneath that, a far more adult knowing (that perhaps comes with being an adult reflecting on one's past, or a reminder that children observe more of the world than we give them credit for (I choose to believe the latter)). What I think is most special about this book is that it is written for all audiences - the subtlety she describes will be understood differently based on who you are as a reader. The universality of her prose makes it a masterpiece, and no wonder it has been recognized as such. If I ruled the world, I would make this mandatory reading material for all U.S. American sixth graders. If you are a parent reading this, I hope you take a look.
It is Monday night here, and the cold that Spring has kept away in the daytime is back, nipping at my bare shoulders and bare feet. My heart is warmed, however, by the magic of Woodson's words. I leave you with a few:
February 12, 1963
I am born on a Tuesday at University Hospital
a country caught
between Black and White.
I am born not long from the time
or far from the place
worked the deep rich land
dawn till dusk
drank cool water from scooped-out gourds
looked up and followed
the sky's mirrored constellation
I am born as the South explodes,
too many people too many years
enslaved, then emancipated
but not free, the people
who look like me
and getting killed
so that today--
February 12, 1963
and every day from this moment on,
brown children like me can grow up
free. Can grow up
learning and voting and walking and riding
wherever we want.
I am born in Ohio but
the stories of South Carolina already run
through my veins.