Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Genre: Memoir, Free verse
Publisher: Listening Library
Publication Date: 2014
Length: 3 hours, 56 minutes
Read by: Jacqueline Woodson
Source: Library

The Short Version:
In a series of free verse vignettes, Jacqueline Woodson paints a vivid story of a child finding her place in a dramatically changing world.

Why I Read It:
This was so highly recommended by so many of my friends that I had to give it a try.

The Book:
From the publisher:

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

My Thoughts:
The “in verse” part of the descriptions of this book intimidated me a bit. I have always felt that poetry was best experienced verbally so I opted for the audio production of this book. I am so very glad I did because it was absolutely wonderful.

Now that I have heard Jacqueline Woodson tell her own story in her own voice I want to get the print version just to have. My own life in the 60’s and 70’s was worlds apart from hers geographically, culturally, economically and in pretty much any way you can think of. Nevertheless there were many moments as I listened to this that I could relate to.

It is the story of a world that I could never experience or fully understand yet when she talks about reading and stories and how important they were I do understand. When she talks about her sister reading under the table and oblivious to what was going on around her I could understand. When she talks about the untapped potential of her blank composition notebook I could understand. I loved this book.

The Reader

When we can’t find my sister, we know
she is under the kitchen table, a book in her hand
a glass of milk and a small bowl of peanuts beside her.

We know we can call Odella’s name out loud,
slap the table hard with our hands,
dance around it singing
“She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”
so many times the song makes us sick
and the circling makes us dizzy
and still
my sister will do nothing more
than slowly turn the page.

I was that girl in our family.

Hearing this in the author’s own voice only added to the beauty of the words. Her pacing and inflections made the words more powerful and allowed me to more fully experience her story. For me it will be impossible to separate the words from the authors voice. I highly recommend this book in the audio format.

5 stars Rating 5/5 for the book

5 stars Rating 5/5 for the narration