Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

This is a book I’ve been hearing good things about for a while. I had wanted to listen to it as an audiobook, but it’s always checked out. So, when I saw it on the library shelf, I decided to pick it up and read it to the kids myself.

Published: 2014

Genre: middle grade memoir in verse

Length: 320 pages of verse, 337 pages with pictures

Font: Garth Graphic

Setting: Columbus, Ohio, Greenville, South Carolina, and New York City, 1963-mid-1970s

Summary: Jacqueline was born in Columbus, but her mother soon separated from her father and moved back in to the family home in Greenville. The children, which included Jackie’s older brother Hope and older sister Odell, enjoyed life with their grandparents. They had some limitations on their activities since they were raised Jehovah’s Witness, but that didn’t stop them from having fun. Their mother moved to New York City to get a job, leaving the kids behind until she could get settled. Even once everyone moved to New York City, the kids were still sent south for the summer. The exception was the one summer their baby brother got lead poisoning from eating paint chips, and he had to stay behind in the hospital. Jackie wasn’t as smart as her older siblings, and reading came especially hard, but she loved works and stories. She strove hard throughout her childhood to be able to tell the stories and thoughts trapped in her head.

Final thoughts: A delightful and quick story since everything was in verse. It definitely needs to be listened to and not just read on the page. Without the oral component, you would miss the rhythm of the words and just look for the bits of plot provided by each poem. We were reading Stella by Starlight at the same time as this book, and there were times it was hard to keep track of what was happening in which book. Both books featured a young black girl coming of age in the South (at least some of the time in the case of Jackie) and wanting to be a writer. Conditions were somewhat better for the black families by the 1960s, but they still had to show deference to the whites. There was some mention of the Civil Rights movement and Black Power, but it wasn’t the focus of the story. It really just was about the life of the kids growing up in the 1960s and 1970s in various parts of the U.S. and how their experience changed by location.

Title comes from: The author was the brown girl in the title, dreaming of becoming a writer

Reading challenges fulfilled: book #18 for the year, a W in my Author Reading the Alphabet Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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