Brown Girl Dreaming; Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming cover art

Brown Girl Dreaming; Jacqueline Woodson
| published September 21, 2015 |

By Lisa K. Whitten, Thursday Review contributor

Delightful! This is a word rarely used in my vocabulary, but this is the only way I can describe the way I felt after completing this book. Although it is a young reader’s book, I chose to read this book because our local library is promoting Brown Girl Dreaming as a community read for the month of September 2015. The city where I live in Florida does this to promote literacy and foster community engagement and discussion.

This is a memoir; there is a family tree included in the beginning, and family photos at the end. Ms. Woodson writes this story in prose looking back on her life beginning with her birth in Ohio on February 12, 1963. The flow of words quickly draws you in, and keeps you turning the pages. The story she tells is a story of the times, a way of life, and her love of words. She tells of the way it was growing up in Greenville, South Carolina as an African American in a world where blacks were made to sit in the back of a bus and denied service at Woolworth’s.

She touches on troubles with her parents that result in her mother moving her and her older brother and sister to Greenville, South Carolina. They move in with their mother’s parents. After a failed attempt of reconciliation of her parents, her mother goes to New York to find employment. The children bond with their grandparents and adapt to life in Greenville only to be uprooted to a new home, learning to adjust to a new baby brother, and new adventures in Brooklyn, New York. They first move in with their Aunt and Uncle—her mother’s sister and brother-in-law. Situations arise and they eventually find their own place.

Jacqueline takes us to school in Brooklyn where she struggles to learn to read and write. Although she has difficulty writing her own name and is challenged by reading, she dreams of being a writer. We learn of new friends, family tragedies, and immense difficulties along the way.

This story is encouraging to young readers, urging them to not give up on their dreams. It can also awaken forgotten childhood memories and hopes. The awards this book has won are well deserved. Brown Girl Dreaming is the winner of: National Book Award Winner; Newbery Honor Book; Coretta Scott King Winner; Robert F. Sibert Award.

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