Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson, for MMGM

Today for my spotlight I have Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson. And truly, I hardly even know where to begin. I finished the book some time ago (weeks? months?) but have been having a hard time articulating my thoughts without getting choked up. So, I’ll start by saying this was a beautiful, rich story that is for everyone!

cover brown girl dreaming

In saying that I hope I won’t be seen as minimizing the impact of this story on the black community, and it obviously also has huge value as a mirror for brown children–to show them they aren’t alone, to show them who they can become, to shine a spotlight on something which feels like their story. These things are SO important! And Jacqueline does a masterful job of holding up that mirror, as she twines her story through the protests of the 60s south, around the civil rights movements that followed and the claiming of black culture in the north. All of it shared in heartfelt lines of verse through the eyes of a child, staying true to a child’s perspective, yet not entirely limited to it. Her thoughts, dreams, wonderings, with a sense of where she’s going and who she’ll grow to be.

This book is also essential at helping white people to understand the race equality problems of our day and the not-so-distant past, and open the eyes of readers. Help them live inside Jacqueline’s experiences, and hopefully step away with a bigger heart and more open understanding.

But my own emotional reaction to the book went beyond all of that, and stemmed from a more personal connection. You see, as a child I was something of a misfit, and not just because I had imaginary friends, sometimes talked to myself, or role-played characters from books. My outsider status was something I inherited, because of my parents’ choices, which labeled us as ‘other’ in our community. My sisters and I had friends, but I grew up with no doubt they were embarrassed by us. When their school friends came over, or they had a birthday party, we were sent home and knew to stay out of sight. When my sisters and I walked around the block, we were often made fun of–children called out insults, mocking us–and if any of our playmates were on hand, they were generally silent. It was understood that we–my family–were fair game, no matter how unpopular the mocking kids might be. As I grew a little older I got better at blending in, and was able to shed some of the stigma of my childhood…although my high school years were extremely lonely and I found it difficult to let people into my inner circle. Most of that is in the distant past now, but as an adult I try to watch out for those around me who feel they are ‘other’ in any group, and do what I can to help them feel seen and wanted.

I hope you’ll excuse that longer look at my life! At any rate, I connected deeply with Jacqueline’s story, despite our backgrounds being wildly different. It feels to me that in the beautiful poetry of this story, with the depth of love, longing, and emotion shared, the author has written a book that transcends physical boundaries and speaks directly to every outsider’s heart. I’m curious to know what others think, and if my response was unique.

But now, let’s see what Apricot-kitty has to say:

Apricot sitting up pensive

“I pity those poor children. Dragged away from their grandparents’ house and stuffed into a concrete box in the city…and with nothing to distract them from their woes but a terrible fire hose in the summer!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well…she’s not totally wrong. Though she is far from right. The descriptions of Jacqueline and her siblings’ summers with their grandparents, in South Carolina, were saturated with sights, sounds and feelings connecting the reader back to nature. You could smell the food, feel the soil, and revel in the night breeze. Their life in the north seemed both more expansive in potential, and limited in their connection to the natural world. Still, I felt the descriptions were well-balanced and without bias…even if the descriptions of kids cooling off in a giant fire hose on the streets of Brooklyn would fail to win over a cat. 😉

For more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday reviews, interviews, spotlights and giveaways, stop by Greg Pattridge’s blog, and happy reading!

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11 comments to Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson, for MMGM

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