Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline WoodsonBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Published by Penguin on 2014-08-28
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Juvenile Nonfiction, Literary, Prejudice & Racism, Social Issues, Women
Pages: 336
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon

Jacqueline Woodson, one of today's finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

Praise for Jacqueline Woodson: Ms. Woodson writes with a sure understanding of the thoughts of young people, offering a poetic, eloquent narrative that is not simply a story . . . but a mature exploration of grown-up issues and self-discovery.”—The New York Times Book Review

Brown Girl Dreaming is author Jacqueline Woodson’s childhood memoir, as told in verse. Brown Girl Dreaming chronicles Jacqueline’s family life growing up in the 60s and 70s in South Carolina and New York, and how she got interested in writing. This book has been getting a lot of positive attention, and I have to add my voice to the choir and say it’s fabulous. Brown Girl Dreaming is a middle grade book but I think adults would love the book just as much.

This book is powerful and poetic and I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling unable to express my feelings about the book as eloquently as Woodson. I’m not even going to attempt writing a review in verse. The verse format makes the words hit that much harder and evoke more emotion. It was the perfect choice for this book. Though BGD is a slim volume, I savored it by reading a little each night.

I love the idea of chronicling family stories and revisiting the past. As time passes, I’m thinking about my family and wishing that my mom and grandparents’ history were documented somewhere. Woodson brings the past to life and makes you feel like you are in the kitchen with her grandmother, playing with her siblings, or exploring New York with your best friend. What a great gift and love letter to her family. There are even pictures of the family members at the end of the book so the reader can put a face to the name.

This book takes place during the civil rights movement, and we see how that looks in South Carolina and New York and hear about Martin and Malcolm and the emergence of the Black Panthers. Religion is also a big part of Woodson’s life, and her grandmother raised her as a Jehovah’s Witness, something she continued when she moved with her mother to Brooklyn.

Woodson lived in the shadow of her bright older sister when she was growing up. But a composition notebook opened up a whole new world:

I don’t know how my first composition notebook

ended up in my hands, long before I could really write

someone must have known that this was all I needed.

It’s inspiring to see Woodson find her passion for writing, and how teachers in Woodson’s life reinforced that choice. I’m sure Woodson’s journey will be meaningful for other aspiring young authors.

This book is a gem and I’m eager to read more of Woodson’s work. I bet this would be great to listen to in audiobook form too, especially since it’s read by the author.

Edited to add: Congrats to Jacqueline Woodson on her first National Book Award win! Well deserved!

Jacqueline Woodson talks about Brown Girl Dreaming:


14 thoughts on “Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

  1. I adore Woodson – I met her once, and she was so warm and kind. Her books are so powerful. I have heard nothing but raves about this one – and you are the first person to tell me it’s her memoir! I MUST get this!

    Debbi Michiko Florence recently posted: Book Buzz! Cooper & Packrat Are Back!
    1. Lucy says:

      I think you would love this book, Debbi! I didn’t realize it was a memoir at first either, but it definitely makes me interested in reading her other books! Which book do you recommend I start out with?

      1. I bought BROWN GIRL DREAMING and am looking forward to reading it! Thank you! Off the top of my head, the book that I most remember reading and loving was From The Notebooks of Melanin Sun. There are others, too, though, and more recent. Check out her page of her YA books:
        Happy reading!

        Debbi Michiko Florence recently posted: Book Buzz! Cooper & Packrat Are Back!
  2. I almost picked this one up on audio and now I am thinking I should. It sounded like it had the potential to be very moving. I am so glad that it was 🙂 🙂

    Felicia the Geeky Blogger recently posted: ReRead Audiobook Review: Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
    1. Lucy says:

      I bet the audio is wonderful, Felicia. My library system doesn’t have it yet unfortunately. Sometimes verse novels don’t translate well to audio but since the author reads this one I think it will be a winner.

  3. I want to read Brown Girl Dreaming SOOOO MUCH! I missed out on it at BEA, which made me sad. I have the book on hold but it hasn’t come in for me yet. I’m so glad to hear that you liked it so much.

    Also, how gorgeous is that cover!!! But I’m a sucker for books with silhouettes.

    1. Lucy says:

      Such a gorgeous cover, yes! I’d love to frame it as artwork.

      Hope your library hold comes in soon. Can’t wait to hear what you think of Brown Girl Dreaming, Quinn!

  4. Thanks so much for sharing your review and the video about the book. This sounds wonderful and sounds like a realistic view of the times.

    Pat @ Posting For Now recently posted: First Chapter – First Paragraph Tuesday Intros
    1. Lucy says:

      The story does seem very realistic and nostalgic, Pat. And Woodson is so good with conveying her younger voice in the book. Hope you get to check out Brown Girl Dreaming sometime!

  5. Tea says:

    Enjoyed hearing the author speak of her experiences.

    1. Lucy says:

      Isn’t that an interesting video? After I read a book I like to find out more about the author and how they came to write the book, and happily I found this one.

  6. Estelle says:

    I just requested this one from my library! I’m so glad to hear it was a winner for you. I still have YET to read a book in verse this year so I hope I get it in my hands before 2014 is up. I actually DID NOT realize it was a middle grade though. INTERESTING. 🙂 Hope you had a great weekend!

    Estelle recently posted: Pump-KING for Halloween | Pub Date
  7. […] Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson – This National Book Award winner is powerful, poetic and lovely. […]

  8. […] Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson – National Book Award winner Brown Girl Dreaming is the first book […]

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