READ. THIS. BOOK. It is absolutely amazing, and I would say one of the best pieces of literature that I have ever read. Jacqueline Woodson has written an autobiography of her life using free verse poetry. The book does not read like a traditional biography, but is the story of her childhood told in incredible images that can often stand independently, but combine to form the story of Jacqueline Woodson.
To class this story as just an autobiography though, is to miss so much of its value:
*It can be a mentor text for writing amazing poetry. In fact, she uses Langston Hughes as a model for one of her poems, “learning from langston” (pg. 245).
*It also provides a glimpse into the civil rights movement, which is incredibly presented in the short poem on page 92, “ghosts.” In seven short lines, Woodson paints a haunting image full of emotion.
In downtown Greenville,
they painted over the WHITE ONLY signs,
except on the bathroom doors,
they didn’t use a lot of paint
so you can still see the words, right there
like a ghost standing in front
still keeping you out.
*brown girl dreaming also provides a story of hope and inspiration for children who struggle in school. Woodson struggled with reading, and yet she overcame and became an amazing crafter of words. In “gifted” (pg. 169) she states:
I am not gifted. When I read, the words twist
twirl across the page.
When they settle, it is to late.
The class has already moved on.
This book is an amazing invitation into the heart and mind of a young girl who dreamed of becoming a writer. It is fascinating to watch that journey unfold for her. I would award this book the Newbery award right now, if I could!