‘Brown Girl Dreaming,’ by Jacqueline Woodson


“Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson. (Nancy Paulsen)
August 12

A radiantly warm memoir told in verse, Jacqueline Woodson’s forthcoming book brings to mind some other recent rich depictions of childhood. Like Marilyn Nelson’s “How I Discovered Poetry” and Richard Linklater’s movie “Boyhood,” “Brown Girl Dreaming” celebrates the ringing individuality of a particular child but also points to the bonds, alliances and stories that connect her to the wider world. Woodson was born in Ohio, raised with two older siblings in South Carolina until age 5, and then transplanted by her mother to Brooklyn, where, in contrast to Greenville, S.C., there was only one tree on her street. Divided into five sections, the book’s poems often delve into the nature of storytelling and memory, starting with the disputed time of day she was born and concluding with the realization of how “all the worlds you are” somehow “gather into one world/ called You.” Woodson’s fierce attachments — to family members, her “forever friend” Maria and writing — are readily apparent, as when she struggles to understand her own tale-telling: “How can I explain to anyone that stories/ are like air to me,/ I breathe them in and let them out/ over and over again.” Her playful but determined side remains strong amid the many memories and dreams, as in her poem about talking with her family about her future: “But maybe you should be a teacher,/ a lawyer,/ do hair . . . / I’ll think about it, I say./ And maybe all of us know/ this is just another one of my/ stories.”

Abby McGanney Nolan

BROWN GIRL DREAMING

By Jacqueline Woodson

Nancy Paulsen/Penguin. $16.99.
Ages 10 and up.

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