Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Puffin Books, 2016
This book is beautiful free verse, prose poetry that is entwined with sweetness, innocence, and simplicity. It has the sense of identity throughout each poem, highlighting what stayed in her young mind that keeps the reader’s attention and emotions high. In her author’s note she writes: “Memory is strange. When I first began to write Brown Girl Dreaming, my childhood memories of Greenville came flooding back to me-small moments and bigger ones, too. Things I haven’t thought about in years…And that’s what this book is-my past, my people, my memories, my story” (p.323). Touching poetry, you’ll easily pick out many that become your favorite like: “If your story is true/our grandmother reminds me/you’ll remember it” (p.346). She mentions memory in several of her poems, how a smell, sound, or a feeling, will trigger a memory. “The air is what I remember…” (p.95). Or, even in the first How to Listen poem on p. 20, “Somewhere in my brain/each laugh, tear and lullaby/becomes memory.” It’s not only a memoir: a collection of memories-it’s a collection of stories that identify her, connect the reader to her as if we knew her since she was a child, and what she went through to get to where she is today, a writer. She has always been a story teller, but she also knows that the spaces in between can tell the story just as well as the words themselves: “Even the silence/has a story to tell you./Just listen. Listen”(p.278). The beauty of this epic poem is in its simplicity. She doesn’t have to say much for the reader to understand what she means.