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  • Writer's pictureJenna Miller

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

brown girl dreaming is Jacqueline Woodson's autobiography written in free verse poetry. This book is technically Young Adult (I consider that a genre, not a reading level), but would be an enjoyable and fast read for anyone interested in this style of writing. She begins her life story with the different accounts of her birth--her mother's, father's, and grandmother's perspectives. Born in Ohio in 1963, Jacqueline's parents soon divorce. Her mother moves all three children back to her hometown near Greenville, South Carolina where they spend many formative years with their beloved grandparents. Eventually, the small family moves to Brooklyn, New York where Woodson still lives today.

One of Woodson's first poems acknowledges the family lore that her father's side of the family can trace their beginnings back to the union of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Much of her poetry is peppered with then current events as she remembers them growing up: the Freedom Riders, Angela Davis and the rise of the Black Panthers, the transformative music from the sixties and seventies, and the slow integration of the South. Woodson writes of growing up in the Jehovah Witness church, losing family members unexpectedly, growing up without her father around, having a learning disability, and dealing with a beloved family member in prison.

I loved reading Woodson's accounts of growing up in multiculturally diverse Brooklyn. She did a great job of describing how one can feel a sense of belonging and home in multiple locations. As a military child and wife, I can completely relate to that feeling. My husband and I often talk about the different perspectives we have on where 'home' is due to my regularity moving for most of life versus his more static upbringing from 7 to 17 years of age.

I really enjoy reading free verse poetry, so I am recommending this to anyone who also enjoys this style, along with anyone who was turned off by the poetry assigned in school growing up. I have never been someone who has enjoyed reading traditional poetry, but I think I will have to give it another chance. Another great free verse poetry book I loved was Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhhà Lai. You can read my review about it here.

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