Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Woodson, J. (2016). Brown girl dreaming. Puffin Books.
Category: Autobiography or memoir
Summary: Written in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming captures author Jacqueline Woodson’s memories of growing up in the south and north, as well as her family and community.
Theme: The past shapes who we become.
Generalizations: family, community, self-identity, race, Black culture, growing up
Potential uses in the classroom: Brown Girl Dreaming can be used to discuss concepts such as family, self-identity, and growing up: How does the role of family shape the author’s early years? How did the author come to identify as a writer? What does being a writer mean? In what ways can the reader identify with the author? In what ways does the reader’s life differ from the author’s? How does self-identity influence how readers read and interpret a text? I would also use this book to discuss text structure: What is a verse novel? Why would an author write a novel in verse? How does a novel written in verse differ from a novel written in prose?
Melissa’s note: I was initially attracted to the book’s cover, but I have been consciously trying to read more books written by and about people of color. I rarely read autobiographies or novels written in verse, so this was an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone. This book is both magical and honest. The writing is exceptional and evoked memories of summers spent with my grandparents, with whom I have a close relationship. I could also relate to the author’s ingrained need to express herself through writing. Brown Girl Dreaming has won many awards and honors including a National Book award, a Newberry Honor Book award, and the Coretta Scott King award.