Brown Girl Dreaming

I don’t even know where to begin, exactly.

Jacqueline Woodson‘s lyrical, exquisite, and lovingly crafted verse memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, seems beyond my abilities to critique.  Poems spanning her birth in February 1963 through her fifth grade year take us from Columbus, Ohio to Greenville, South Carolina, and ultimately to Brooklyn, New York.  Born on the edge of the Civil Rights movement, Jackie’s childhood is framed by the Jim Crow south and the hope of the Great Migration, but its richness, texture, and heft comes from her beloved family: her grandfather Gunnar, called Daddy, and grandmother Irby, who raised Jackie and her brother Hope and sister Odella for a time; her mother MaryAnn, who was always looking for a better life for her children; and her absent father, Jack Woodson.  Young  Jackie, possessed of a wise innocence, observed her world with a keen eye, absorbed everything around her and believed in the magic of words, wishing others could understand how “stories are like/air to me.” (247)

The poems (and the memories they detail) in Brown Girl Dreaming reminded me of jewels on a necklace: glimmering in the light, strung on the finest thread; some jagged-edged, sharp stones, others smooth, round, luminous pearls; each one unique in its beauty and completeness but also an integral part of the entire piece.  These jewels are polished with love: honestly revealing the humanity of the characters;  illustrating the importance of our stories, in knowing where we come from, and in believing that “there is something hidden/like this, in all of us.  A small gift from the universe/waiting to be discovered.” (233)

  • Posted by Cori


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