Brown Girl Dreaming
By Jacqueline Woodson
Published 2014 by Nancy Paulsen Books
Award-winning author Woodson poetically relates her life growing up and how she came to find her passion in writing.
This is, of course, the other verse memoir that everyone was talking about last year. Once again, I didn't get around to it until this year, after it had won nearly every award under the sun. I actually read this after I read Marilyn Nelson's similar-but-different memoir, so it's extremely difficult not to compare the two.
I suppose it's a good thing that they're both damn good books. In fact, I'm not sure I could pick one over the other. Nelson's is more technical, just 50 poems but each powerful and perfect. Woodson's is more free-flowing and ranges over 300 pages, but each capturing the feelings and moments in a beautiful way. I don't want to spend the whole review comparing the two. Let's just say they're both brilliant and you should not ignore either in favor of the other; they both deserve your attention.
Woodson's memoir left me with more questions. Perhaps because she takes a wider-ranging approach, I wondered more about what I wasn't being told. What happened with her birth father (he is mentioned again in the author's note, but I would have liked to read more as their relationship was being rebuilt)? What did Woodson's family think when she found success as an author? I think I would happily read another 300 pages of Woodson's beautiful verse to hear more of her life story.
My favorite part was when she described how her mother must have felt losing her brother - it so perfectly expressed the grief of losing a sibling that I felt like she plucked it right out of my own head and heart. Really, it's just proof of how amazing a writer Woodson is and how we should all be reading her beautiful words.
This is a phenomenal book to recommend to any aspiring young writer, or any child who has had a rough beginning, or anyone who worries that they might never find the thing that will make them special, the thing they can do better than anyone. In actuality, this is a book for all readers, and I'm so thrilled it was showered with awards.