Brown Girl Dreaming - Jacqueline Woodson
This is an interesting book for me to review. I don't usually read poetry and this wasn't on my radar at all, but I ended up reading it for a Goodreads group and I'm so glad that I did.
BROWN GIRL DREAMING is a memoir written in verse. The poems take you through a story of a young girl growing up from being born in Ohio, to moving to South Carolina, and eventually moving to New York City. The thing that makes this story unique is the fact that she grew up in the '60's and 70's so her experiences were much different based on her location.
I felt a kinship to this young Jacqueline as I was reading her story. There were a lot of things that I could relate to, no matter that her and my experiences were happening about 15 years apart. But there are things all brown girls go through no matter the time. I chuckled when reading "hair night". Everyone knows about the sizzle of that hot comb. I was wistful when reading "stevie and me" and I think about the first book I read that had a person of color as the main character, and how it affected me (mine wasn't fiction though, it was a book about Wilma Rudolph for young readers). I also think about the stupid things I thought about doing that could have changed the course of my life forever if not for the fact that I had family who was involved and willing to stop me and make think. In Ms. Woodson's "graffiti", she had spray paint, but it really could have been anything. And of course there is the "fabric store" where every brown girl can sympathize with Jaqueline's grandmother for now wanting to go into the store where there employee follows all the black people around to make sure they don't steal anything. She chooses to go to the fabric store instead.
Then there were things that I only heard about. Like in "what everybody knows now", she talks about how the laws of changed but the attitudes of segregation have not in Greenville, South Carolina. It must have been so hard for her to go from New York to SC with those vastly different attitudes. The mixed messages that these kids had to adapt to is unreal, but I look at how some things haven't change. I think about the fear that I have for my own children especially my son as he gets older, and the stereotypes that he is going to have to still endure. The fear that I have that one day he may be stopped by police and never come home again.
Ultimately, BROWN GIRL DREAMING was beautifully written and touched me so deeply, I know that I will be thinking about the story and revisiting it for a long time. I am going to make sure that it's a book that my daughter reads very soon, and probably force my son to read it as well (I'll convince him that it's not just about an "icky" girl). I would recommend this book for everyone, it's poignant but funny at times, sad too. And I believe that everyone will be able to find some like experiences to her story as well.
This is a new author for me, but she's definitely on my radar now. I will be looking for more of her work.