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.
After reading her novel-in-verse Locomotion, I knew I had to read Brown Girl Dreaming. I loved the descriptions of character and emotions in each poem. It’s easy to feel the family connections and the love of places, especially her grandmother’s home in South Carolina.
It’s funny—I think there’s this idea that reading and writing always come easily to people who grow up to be writers. Sometimes that’s really not the case. As a little girl, Jacqueline’s relationship with story far exceeds her ability to read or write, something that I think gives a lot of hope to young readers who struggle. There’s a strong element of courage that runs through the whole story. I loved feeling the connections between family members and the strength each one carried and how those relationships affected Jacqueline in her life and her quest to understand her place in the world.
Brown Girl Dreaming would be a great pick for a child struggling with reading, both because of the way it’s told and the struggle in the story itself. It’s also a great place to begin introducing the Civil Rights movement to younger readers.
Jacqueline Woodson writes about growing up as a young African American girl in South Carolina and later in Brooklyn in the 1960s.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Jacqueline’s grandmother brings her and her siblings to services to learn about being a Jehova’s Witness. They attend classes and go door to door to spread their faith.
She learns about a woman who fell down stairs and died.
Her grandfather smokes cigarettes.