Book Review: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

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Title: Brown Girl Dreaming

Author: Jacqueline Woodson

Number of Pages: 337

Genre: Autobiography/ Books in Verse

Rating: B

Recommended?: Yes


I read Jacqueline Woodson’s novel Another Brooklyn earlier this year, and I wasn’t crazy about it. Even though Woodson’s talent as a writer was obvious, I didn’t connect to the characters or the situations at all, and the book seemed more interested in lyrical language than character development, which was slim to nonexistent. Brown Girl Dreaming is my third book by Woodson (I think I read Miracle’s Boys when I was a kid, although I barely remember it) and I ended up enjoying this one more than Another Brooklyn. Brown Girl Dreaming is a personal memoir of the author’s childhood written in verse, and although the scenes that occur right after she’s born are obviously fictionalized, I assume most of it is true.


Jacqueline Woodson is born in the 1960’s, which is obviously a time of great racial tension and fear, but also a time for change in the way African-Americans are treated by whites. Woodson watches the civil rights movement develop through the eyes of a child who wonders why different races of people can’t just get along. She ends up feeling torn between New York and South Carolina, and realizes that her dream is to be a writer very early in life. I guess writers who realize early in their childhood This is what I want to do are kind of lucky in a way, I was very similar in that respect. I wanted to be a writer when I was about seven, and I still want to be a writer now, seventeen years later.


I have to admit that poetry is not my go-to genre; I never write it, and I rarely read it. However, I thought Jacqueline Woodson’s verse was beautiful. While most memoirs seem to be about how terrible the writer’s childhood was (and don’t get me wrong, some of those memoirs are great,) Jacqueline Woodson balances the hardships her and her family suffered with a more positive, almost hopeful view of her childhood than I was used to. I got to know all four of Woodson’s siblings (albeit in a somewhat superficial way) with the possible exception of the baby of the family, Roman. I found myself wondering if Roman got brain-damaged from the lead poisoning that was described in the book and ended up mentally handicapped, but although the author seemed to hint at that she never elaborated on it.


Even though I really liked the writing in this book, something ultimately kept me from falling in love with it, and I’m not sure what it was. Maybe it’s because I’m not that big a fan of poetry, even when it’s well-written, but even though I fully acknowledge that this was a good book, I didn’t find myself becoming fully invested in it. However, I think it would be great if Jacqueline Woodson decided to write a sequel to this book and if she did I would definitely want to read it. I’m particularly curious about her experience of coming out to her parents, which I saw mentioned in an interview, and I also want to know what she was like as a teenager. From reading a Q&A on her personal website, she seems like a cool person, and I’m interested in reading more of her books. I’d also like to see her write more books for adults, and hopefully they’ll end up doing more for me than Another Brooklyn did.


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