It’s an understatement to say that poetry is very much not my thing, but friends kept telling me that I HAD to read Brown Girl Dreaming and now I’m telling everyone here that they HAVE to read it. Well, no one’s going to make you, but you won’t regret it if you do. A book in verse sounds ominously pretentious, but Brown Girl Dreaming ended up being a refreshing and honest coming-of-age tale, simple enough for middle schoolers to understand and complex enough for adults to enjoy.
Woodson’s story begins in 1963 Columbus, Ohio where she was born and named Jacqueline, even though her father wanted her named Jack after himself. A couple of years later, her parents split and her mother moves back to the south where segregation was going strong. When her mother eventually gets a job in New York City, her heart aches for the wide open spaces in the country where children can play free and go barefoot. Woodson grew up in a time and place filled with violence and strife, but her verse is gentle and personal. She tells the reader about her lovable family, her flair for telling tall tales, and struggles in school. The narrative unfolds naturally in bits and pieces of memory. Through those small pieces of memory, you get to see young Jacqueline find herself and discover her strengths.
This would be the perfect book to read aloud to children at home or in a class. I sought out the audiobook version and I don’t regret it because the poetry begs to be spoken aloud. Read (or listen to) this book. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be charmed.