Brown Girl Dreaming (Newbery Honor Book)

by Jacqueline Woodson

Hardcover, 2014



Local notes

Fic Woo




Nancy Paulsen Books (2014), Edition: First Edition, 352 pages


Biography & Autobiography. Juvenile Nonfiction. Sociology. HTML:A New York Times Bestseller and National Book Award Winner Jacqueline Woodson, the acclaimed author of Red at the Bone, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.   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.   A National Book Award Winner A Newbery Honor Book A Coretta Scott King Award Winner Praise for Jacqueline Woodson: Ms. Woodson writes with a sure understanding of the thoughts of young people, offering a poetic, eloquent narrative that is not simply a story . . . but a mature exploration of grown-up issues and self-discovery.�?��??The New York Times Book Revie… (more)


National Book Award (Finalist — Young People's Literature — 2014)
A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book (Nonfiction — 2014)
Boston Globe–Horn Book Award (Honor — Fiction — 2015)
LA Times Book Prize (Finalist — Young Adult Literature — 2014)
Georgia Children's Book Award (Finalist — Grades 4-8 — 2016)
Great Stone Face Book Award (Nominee — 2016)
BCCB Blue Ribbon Book (Nonfiction — 2014)
Kentucky Bluegrass Award (Nominee — Grades 6-8 — 2016)
Newbery Medal (Honor Book — 2015)
Ohioana Book Award (Finalist — Middle Grade & Young Adult Literature — 2015)
Nevada Young Readers' Award (Nominee — Intermediate — 2016)
Oregon Reader's Choice Award (Nominee — 2017)
Coretta Scott King Award (Winner — 2015)
Grand Canyon Reader Award (Recommended — 2017)
Arkansas Teen Book Award (Nominee — 2016)
Iowa Children's Choice Award (Nominee — 2017)
Southern Book Prize (Winner — Children's — 2015)
NCSLMA Battle of the Books (Middle School — 2019)
Street Literature Book Award (Young Adult Literature — 2016)
Black-Eyed Susan Book Award (Nominee — Grades 4-6 — 2016)
Volunteer State Book Award (Nominee — Middle School — 2017)
Rhode Island Teen Book Award (Nominee — 2016)
E.B. White Read-Aloud Award (Winner — 2015)
The Best Children's Books of the Year (Nine to Twelve — 2015)
Reading Olympics (Middle School — 2024)
Chicago Public Library Best of the Best: Kids (Informational Books for Older Readers — 2014)

Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

352 p.; 5.75 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
This is the story of Jacqueline Woodson's childhood. It's structured as a series of vignettes told in free, unrhymed verse that lends an immediacy to each memory. Woodson was born in Ohio, but grew up in Greenville, SC and Brooklyn, NY in the 1960s and 1970s. There's a great deal about the Civil
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Rights Act and how it affected her family, as well as about her learning difficulties and how she nonetheless dreamed of being an author.

All of which makes it sound like a very worthy kind of book, which it is, having won the National Book Award. But it's also enjoyable to read. Woodson's memories rely on smells and tastes and sounds as much as any other sense; the feel of the red dust of South Carolina against bare feet, the joy of eating a lemon chiffon ice cream cone on a hot summer's day, the security of having a best friend. This is an immediate and accessible book and Woodson is an excellent companion through both the trials and tribulations of childhood in general and the experience of growing up as an African American during a very specific time in American history.
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LibraryThing member jennybeast
Picture of a culture and a time told in vivid, short poems -- 1960's Ohio, then the south, then Brooklyn, too. Fascinating look from the inside of an entire country's spectrum of racism, and at the glorious love in the Woodson family, despite tragedy, despite poverty, despite hard times. Great
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read. Pair with One Crazy Summer for the West coast slant.
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LibraryThing member lit_chick
2014, Penguin Audio, Read by Jacqueline Woodson

Publisher’s Summary: from
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
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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 Review:
Woodson, no question, is a talented writer/poet. I appreciate her vivid images of the beauty of the American South, and, by contrast, of what it felt like to walk to the back of the bus with her mother – before she was old enough to understand why. Her young struggle with reading, followed by her utter joy of language as she finds her voice through stories is indeed touching and powerful. My difficulty with Brown Girl Dreaming, then, is not with Woodson, but with me. Verse is not something I particularly enjoy reading, and so I do so very rarely. To listen to a novel in verse – well, it’s just not my thing. That said, I encourage other readers not to be dissuaded by my shortcomings. I look forward to Another Brooklyn, which is up next – and written in prose.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
This "memoir in verse" is a profound account of growing up black in America in the 1970s. Woodson was born in Ohio, moved to South Carolina when she was three, living with her maternal grandparents. Her days were spent playing in the warm southern sun, and "social life" was grounded in religion. A
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few years later, they left South Carolina for New York City, and there, too, were sustained by strong family ties.

Each "chapter" of this memoir is a poem, taking us chronologically through Woodson's early life, and her discovery of words and writing. Her poems are infused with emotion. Some celebrate the happy freedoms of childhood, but many deal with prejudice, or loss, or the confusion children often experience when they don't understand events unfolding around them. Although this book is written for younger readers, I teared up more than once while reading it, which is a testament to Woodson's power with language.
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LibraryThing member AnnieMod
I don't understand free verse - it always sounded to me as a gimmick to allow you to go away with grammar and sentence rules without actually being bound with the conventions of poetry (rhyming and/or at least some kind of an order). So I did not expect a lot from this book - and after reading it,
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the format still does not make sense. But the book is worth reading despite the chosen format.

There are a lot of books about growing up black in the 60s - there are probably enough of them that start in the North, go South and then back North as well. And somehow Woodson manages to present another world - different from what you had believed. Some of the poems (or whatever we want to call the pieces) follow immediately one after the other; some are memories and scenes that seem unrelated but help to build a whole world. By the time you finish the book, you suddenly realize that you can see the world - with the marches and the problems, with the family struggles and friends and mainly - the world of a girl that needs to grow up in a world that does not always like her and that had a dream - to become a writer.

There does not seem to be anything too complex in the book (and it is written for children after all) but something seems to be working better than I expected - and the small glimpses allow you to add the missing pieces.

I wish Woodson had chosen a more conventional format for her memoir - I would have liked it a lot more in straight prose. Even if it was leaving the same gaps open -- the free verse is just a bit too free and too random for me I guess. Still - I do recommend this book - regardless of age. And I have a suspicion that someone younger or someone that grew up in the same places will like it a lot more than I did.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
What an amazing way to tell her life's story, in wonderful prose. From Ohio, to South Carolina in the sixties, where things are changing but not quite quick enough, to New York. We learn the story of Woodson's family, their changing fortune and the wonderful relationship she had with her
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grandfather. Her calling to be a writer, and how she made up stories in preparation for the day she would be able to write her own. Her early induction as a Jehovah Witness and how this effected her young life. Simple, beautiful and profound.
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LibraryThing member foggidawn
In spare and lovely free verse poems, Woodson describes her early life. Born in Ohio, she moved with her mother and siblings to South Carolina at a young age, then to New York a few years later. Woodson describes how she learned to tell stories, while also exploring the era in which she grew up and
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the experiences -- some happy, some sad -- that she shared with her close-knit family.

This is a National Book Award finalist, and a book that's been getting a lot of Newbery buzz. I liked it a lot, and can certainly see its distinguished qualities. I tend to want memoirs to be more like novels (real life has a distressing lack of plot, have you noticed?), but Woodson does a good job of tying her life story together in a cohesive way. Whether it scoops a lot of big awards or not, I think this is an important book, and I'd recommend it to memoir readers and kid lit aficionados.
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LibraryThing member lilibrarian
Author Jacqueline Woodson writes in free verse of her childhood in the 1960s and 70s, growing up in a small town in South Carolina, and moving to New York City.
LibraryThing member froxgirl
This is a dream of a book. Written as spoken narrative, which took me a few pages to adjust to, it is one of the most vivid childhood tales ever shared. Jacqueline Woodson grows up surrounded by the love of her cherished grandparents, which she describes as covering her like a warm blanket, and the
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ambition of her mother to get the hell out of the South. Born in Ohio but moved to South Carolina, the year of her birth is a pivotal one for the Civil Rights movement, and remnants of Jim Crow are her constant companions. When her mother moves the three children North, she makes Brooklyn her own but longs for her grandparents. For the first time, I really understand the push-pull of black families with Southern roots. The country is for kids, running wild and free, but bounded by scary white people. The city has room for everyone, including a Hispanic BFF, but where are the trees and vines and streams that nurture one's place in the natural world?

It is clear that this talented woman was born to write and to carry on the strong oral tradition of sharing stories.

One of my top ten books of 2014. Read it and weep and hug your family.
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LibraryThing member EdGoldberg
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson is the 2014 BrownGirlDreamingwinner of the National Book Award for Young Adult literature. In this novel in free verse, Ms. Woodson takes us on a tour of her childhood in Greenville, SC and Brooklyn, NY. In the same soft voice with which she speaks, she
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tells of her loving family in South Carolina, her grandfather Gunnar who acted more as her father, her Jehovah’s Witness grandmother, her brothers and sister and her dreams.

In both South Carolina and Brooklyn, the former a recently desegregated Southern state and the latter a theoretically liberal minded Northern borough, she felt the impact of racism. In South Carolina, Blacks still went to the back of the bus to avoid conflict. There were stores that Blacks didn’t enter because they were ignored or because they were segregated prior to desegregation. In Brooklyn, there were streets Blacks didn’t cross because they took them into the white neighborhoods.

Ms. Woodson talks about her feelings of inadequacy when compared with her older sister who was considered gifted. She talks about wanting to be a writer, but reading initially didn’t come easy to her. And, as the 1960s ended and the 1970s began, a young Ms. Woodson was caught up in the idea of “I’m Black and I’m Proud” and the ideals of the Black Panthers.

Brown Girl Dreaming is eloquent. Her life and emotions, such as being sad when the Woodson children had to go in earlier in the evening than other children in the neighborhood, come to life. There are vivid images of both South Carolina and Brooklyn, the contrasting surroundings, soft cool green grass vs. hard, sharp concrete sidewalks, the sweet smell of rain vs. the non-smell of rain. Through it all, it is the bond of family that shines.

Many times I’m not in agreement with the judges of book awards, but Jacqueline Woodson, author of such Young Adult classics (or just classics) as If You Come Softly, Miracle’s Boys, Hush, and Locomotion, is a worthy recipient of the National Book Award Prize. Readers of all ages will get lost in the story telling of her books.
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LibraryThing member jnwelch
"We take our food out to her stoop just as the grown-ups
start dancing merengue, the women lifting their long dresses
to show off their fast-moving feet,
the men clapping and yelling,
Baila! Baila! until the living room floor disappears."

With Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson has written a
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fascinating and moving book in free verse about her family and growing up black in America. Born in 1963, she starts in Ohio and then moves with her mother to Greenville, South Carolina, where segregation was only reluctantly being let go, and it was still safer to ride in the back of the bus. Later she moves again to the more liberal New York City, where she gets fairer treatment and a better education, but also sidewalks instead of mimosa trees. She misses her relatives and the more easy-going living: “the South is so heavy in her mouth my eyes fill up with the missing of everything and everyone I’ve ever known.” Her grandmother in Greenville makes her follow the strict religion of the Jehovah's Witnesses, but she is surrounded there by family love. The racial prejudice is frustrating, but balanced by the feeling of community in her immediate neighborhood, and her best friend Maria.

"Late August now
home from Greenville and ready
for what the last of the summer brings me.
All the dreams this city holds
right outside — just step through the door and walk
two doors down to where
my new best friend, Maria, lives. Every morning,
I call up to her window, Come outside
or she rings our bell, Come outside.
Her hair is crazily curling down past her back,
the Spanish she speaks like a song
I am learning to sing.
Mi amiga, Maria.
Maria, my friend."

Moving to New York is hard at first. “Who could love/ this place—where/ no pine trees grow, no porch swings move/ with the weight of/ your grandmother on them.” But as she settles in, she begins to understand her strength with words and storytelling, a strength that leads to the very book we're reading.

I don't know what caused Woodson to choose the free verse form, but it works beautifully. Easy to read and appropriate, it reminded me a bit of Spoon River Anthology. This was a special read. Four and a half stars. I'll be looking for others by this author.
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LibraryThing member skstiles612
Jacqueline Woodson has long been one of my favorite authors. As a white person I didn't have to grow up through the turmoil she did. I didn't understand a lot of the turmoil. I was sheltered. When we went camping I played with kids. There was no color. My parents saw fit to raise me to believe we
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are all created by God and are all the same. It wasn't until I moved from Indiana to Florida that I saw the true issues. I had been sheltered from the fact that our town (I grew up 20 miles out in the country) was very prejudiced. Jacqueline's autobiography, told through verse is a look into the life I knew nothing about. She faces and speaks of each hardship in life so eloquently. We get a glimpse through her eyes of what it was like growing up a "brown girl" during her childhood. This is a must read book. This is one I will not only recommend to my students, but will strongly suggest they read, no matter what their color. This is history, this is life, this is past and present. This is Beautiful.
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LibraryThing member ewyatt
Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of her youth and her dream of being a writer in this lovely memoir in verse. From Ohio to South Carolina to New York, Jackie talks about her aspirations, family, and friendship. The early memories that shaped her life from birth through elementary school with a
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backdrop of events in the Civil Rights movement in the 60s and early 70s.
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LibraryThing member Rebecca_Hail
I didn’t think I would like this book. I went into to hemming and hawing because it’s a poetry book, and how good could poetry books be? Well, it turns out pretty good. This is a book I’d recommend everyone to read, or at least try. It’s also a book I would love to see read in high schools
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across the country. It is a great piece of work, that gives an honest look at that time period from someone who was there. Brown Girl Dreaming is moving, touching, and everything you could want a book like this to be. This book has earned itself a spot on my bookshelf for life.
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LibraryThing member voracious
"Brown Girl Dreaming" is a wonderful and heartwarming memoir written entirely in prose. The author recalls her childhood and family as they move from Ohio to South Carolina and ultimately, New York City. As she struggles to understand her identity and describes the rich cultural experiences and
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racism of the early 1960's, the author conveys deeper messages about love, family, and friendship. The author's love of books and storytelling was also rooted in her early experiences and cultivated by her family. Although this memoir addresses challenging subjects, such as racism, substance abuse, and parental abandonment, the overall message is one of resiliency, the closeness of family, and intergenerational guidance. This should become a required book for all middle school children but all audiences (including adults) will enjoy this very deserving winner of the National Book Award.
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LibraryThing member tona.iwen
The precise poetry throughout the memoir was compelling and beautiful. When I finished the book, I wanted her story to continue. Woodson presented difficult issues in a forthright, approachable manner. I was touched by her stories, and it struck me that she was born four years before my husband –
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to read about the racism, the lingering Jim Crow laws, the burgeoning civil rights movement, and realize how close in age they are resonated deeply with me.
Curricular connections for 6-8 grades can be made with language arts and social studies. Students can explore the idea of the memoir. What are the memories that have shaped you as a person? How do you pare down the many events in your life to write a concise picture that shows the reader who you are? Students can use the book to study poetry, then take an event from their lives and write about it in free verse. Connecting with social studies, students can focus on relevant passages pertaining to Jim Crow, civil rights, Birmingham, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Black Panthers. They can springboard into deeper research and evaluate what was happening around the nation, or create a timeline and plot relevant events to the current period.
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LibraryThing member lycomayflower
I shied away from this one at first because verse, but so many people recommended it so highly that I decided to give it a go. It is wonderful. Each poem is like a perfect image of a memory. Lovely.
LibraryThing member BLaForce1996
This autobiography told in poems clearly shares the realities that created Woodson's passion for reading and writing then and now.
LibraryThing member paula-childrenslib
"Jacqueline Woodson, one of today's finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse. 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
Show More
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. Praise for Jacqueline Woodson: Ms. Woodson writes with a sure understanding of the thoughts of young people, offering a poetic, eloquent narrative that is not simply a story. but a mature exploration of grown-up issues and self-discovery."-The New York Times Book Review"-- Provided by publisher. "The author shares her childhood memories and reveals the first sparks that ignited her writing career in free-verse poems about growing up in the North and South"-- Provided by publisher.
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LibraryThing member Brainannex
Beautiful and worthy of all the praise and attention it is getting.
LibraryThing member RachelSchillreff
This book has recently won a lot of awards. It has been sitting on my shelf for quite some time. I started reading it a few hours ago and just now finished. It was a great book and had some great sections that would lend themselves to standing alone in a classroom. I can see incorporating this
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whole book or some verses to use in a class that is looking at racial issues. It would be a good book to use while teaching "To Kill a Mockingbird". I will recommend it to any of my social studies teachers and English teachers to use not only as an illustration of poetry but of good content in regards to racial issues since the 1960's.
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
If you are an adult reading this review, go out and buy this for your child or grandchild, but read it yourself first. Brown Girl Dreaming is Jacqueline Woodson's memoir written for children in the middle grades, but it is appropriate for all ages, right up to the senior citizen. It is written in
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verse, and reveals her life as she moved from the South to New York in a single parent family, a problem that was rare when she was young, but one that would become prevalent in the black community, as well as the rest of the world, as decades passed. The book illustrated the path that led to progress and positive changes in the world of people of color and also indicated the failures and slow deterioration that developed in that society as well.
For me, this book was nostalgic, since a piece of it takes place in Brooklyn, and the author actually lived on Herzl Street, in Brooklyn, where my good friend Pearl lived when I was growing up, about a decade earlier. Many of her descriptions of games and neighborhoods were familiar to me and brought back so many happy memories. We shared a time, a place and a joy of living that is often absent in that neighborhood today. I was totally ignorant of the problems that existed, when I was young, and no young person today should grow up as ignorant of that struggle or of any other major struggle, for that matter, such as the Holocaust, as well.
Her lyrical presentation describes the history of the Civil Rights struggle in America succinctly and clearly. Middle grade children should have no problem understanding her underlying message of hope and also of despair. However, it would be better if the book was used as a teaching tool so that the political, social and moral conscience of the book could be further developed. The profound concepts, expressed so gently through Woodson’s memories, impart an understanding of the times that would be more accessible with the aid of an instructor. The poetry of her message will fill the reader with questions and also with wonder. In spite of so much hardship, there was optimism and hope that seems missing today. That is really the broader discussion that should arise for adults who read the book and the learning experience that a teacher could help the children obtain. How can the situation be improved? What are we doing wrong in society? What are the implications of history, then and now? Has any real progress been made? At some point do those persecuted assume they are now entitled to more than equal opportunity to make up for lost time and is it their due? Are these legitimate questions? They cannot be understood by a child without the help of an adult, and an adult should read it to become more aware and intimately involved with the problems clearly expressed in the book that are still being faced today.
The author and I had a lot in common, and yet we were worlds apart. We were brought up in the same area, perhaps a decade apart. We played together in the street, regardless of age or sex. We felt safe, except perhaps for the duck and cover of the Cold War air raid practice sirens. We experienced the same newsreels and world events. We both have a genetic gap in our front teeth. We both had someone in our lives who inspired us, who taught us right from wrong, good from bad behavior, honesty vs. dishonesty, proper language and appropriate dress, so that we presented a positive face to the world. So, we were not, and are still not, so different, after all. The answer to how to make those worlds come together again in a color blind way, may simply lie within the pages of this little, unassuming book. Anger, bias and hate is largely absent from it. In the hands of skilled teachers or open-minded readers, peace may finally be achievable for all people, no matter how different they are, if only they are willing to learn from mistakes and move on.
Of course, this may sound Pollyanna to many, and maybe it is even like wishful, unrealistic thinking, but it only takes one dedicated person to make a change, as Martin Luther King surely proved, as Ghandi surely proved. Evil exists only if we let it. This book gave me hope for the existence of its opposite. It reminded me of the idealism of my youth, a time when I believed the world could be a better place, although it was also a time when outside influences also often convinced me that it could not.
Perhaps we should all lose ourselves in hopefulness, rather than hopelessness. Jacqueline Woodson found her place in life, her gift to give to the world. Shout it from the rooftops that we are all family and provide the equality to all that has been guaranteed by law, but is still out of reach to so many because of ignorance and hate. Wipe out the ignorance and the hate will surely disappear as well. Believe in the ultimate goodness of people, rather than in judgment based on narrow-minded ideas about color, religion and station in life.
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LibraryThing member Debra_Armbruster
Lyrical and vivid, _Brown Girl Dreaming_ is Jacqueline Woodson's ode to her childhood. Written as a series of poems, Woodson chronicles her birth, life at her grandparents home in South Carolina, move to Brooklyn, and her inspiration to write.

I listened to this as an audiobook. Although read by
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Woodson, I feel as though I missed something by not having the physical layout of her poetry in front of me.
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LibraryThing member melissarochelle
Read from February 23 to 24, 2015

I'm not sure I have words for how much I enjoyed this book. I've been hearing about it for months, but it didn't seem like a book I would be interested in. I'm not a huge fan of nonfiction and I don't read a lot of memoirs. I especially don't read books written in
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verse (but I only found out about that once I started reading).

But! Sometimes it's good to branch out and I'm so glad I did. I gobbled up Woodson's beautiful words and inspiring story. Her words brought the people and places to life. I could see her Uncle Robert dancing to James Brown and smell the collards cooking (reminds me of my own childhood!). Her childhood wasn't always perfect, but she tells her story of growing up in 1960s/70s South Carolina and Brooklyn so perfectly.
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LibraryThing member Mimiyoyo
Beautiful poetry. I'm the same age as the author, so it was interesting to read her perspective on events and things I remember when I was growing up. Woodson captures well the sometimes confusing situations of childhood. I especially liked her fond memories of growing up in South Carolina.

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(924 ratings; 4.4)
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