Brown Girl Dreaming
Brown Girl Dreaming

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Annotation: 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.
Genre: Biographies
Catalog Number: #127670
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Publisher: Penguin
Copyright Date: 2016
Edition Date: 2016
Pages: 349 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-14-751582-3 Perma-Bound: 0-605-95167-5
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-14-751582-7 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-95167-9
Dewey: 921
LCCN: 2014021346
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
A memoir-in-verse so immediate, readers will feel they are experiencing Woodson's childhood along with her. We see young Jackie grow up not just in historical context but also in the context of extended family, community, and religion (she was raised Jehovahs Witness). Most notably, we trace her development as a nascent writer. The poetry here sings: specific, lyrical, and full of imagery.
Publishers Weekly
Written in verse, Woodson-s collection of childhood memories provides insight into the Newbery Honor author-s perspective of America, -a country caught/ between Black and White,- during the turbulent 1960s. Jacqueline was born in Ohio, but spent much of her early years with her grandparents in South Carolina, where she learned about segregation and was made to follow the strict rules of Jehovah-s Witnesses, her grandmother-s religion. Wrapped in the cocoon of family love and appreciative of the beauty around her, Jacqueline experiences joy and the security of home. Her move to Brooklyn leads to additional freedoms, but also a sense of loss: -Who could love/ this place-where/ no pine trees grow, no porch swings move/ with the weight of/ your grandmother on them.- The writer-s passion for stories and storytelling permeates the memoir, explicitly addressed in her early attempts to write books and implicitly conveyed through her sharp images and poignant observations seen through the eyes of a child. Woodson-s ability to listen and glean meaning from what she hears lead to an astute understanding of her surroundings, friends, and family. Ages 10-up. Agent: Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. (Aug.)

School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 4-7 "I am born in Ohio but the stories of South Carolina already run like rivers through my veins" writes Woodson as she begins her mesmerizing journey through her early years. She was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1963, "as the South explodes" into a war for civil rights and was raised in South Carolina and then New York. Her perspective on the volatile era in which she grew up is thoughtfully expressed in powerfully effective verse, (Martin Luther King is ready to march on Washington; Malcom X speaks about revolution; Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat only seven years earlier and three years have passed since Ruby Bridges walks into an all-white school). She experienced firsthand the acute differences in how the "colored" were treated in the North and South. "After the night falls and it is safe for brown people to leave the South without getting stopped and sometimes beaten and always questioned; We board the Greyhound bus bound for Ohio." She related her difficulties with reading as a child and living in the shadow of her brilliant older sister, she never abandoned her dream of becoming a writer. With exquisite metaphorical verse Woodson weaves a patchwork of her life experience, from her supportive, loving maternal grandparents, her mother's insistence on good grammar, to the lifetime friend she meets in New York, that covers readers with a warmth and sensitivity no child should miss. This should be on every library shelf.&12; D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* What is this book about? In an appended author's note, Woodson says it best: "my past, my people, my memories, my story." The resulting memoir in verse is a marvel, as it turns deeply felt remembrances of Woodson's preadolescent life into art, through memories of her homes in Ohio, South Carolina, and, finally, New York City, and of her friends and family. Small things e cream from the candy store, her grandfather's garden, fireflies in jelly jars come large as she recalls them and translates them into words. She gives context to her life as she writes about racial discrimination, the civil rights movement, and, later, Black Power. But her focus is always on her family. Her earliest years are spent in Ohio, but after her parents separate, her mother moves her children to South Carolina to live with Woodson's beloved grandparents, and then to New York City, a place, Woodson recalls, "of gray rock, cold and treeless as a bad dream." But in time it, too, becomes home; she makes a best friend, Maria, and begins to dream of becoming a writer when she gets her first composition notebook and then discovers she has a talent for telling stories. Her mother cautions her not to write about her family, but, happily, many years later she has d the result is both elegant and eloquent, a haunting book about memory that is itself altogether memorable.
Word Count: 30,318
Reading Level: 5.3
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.3 / points: 5.0 / quiz: 168140 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:8.4 / points:9.0 / quiz:Q64354
Lexile: 990L
february 12, 1963

I am born on a Tuesday at the University Hospital
Columbus, Ohio
a country caught

between Black and White.

I am born not long from the time
or far from the place
my great, great grandparents
worked the deep rich land
dawn till dusk
drank cool water from scooped out gourds
looked up and followed
the sky's mirrored constellation
to freedom.

I am born as the south explodes,
too many people too many years
enslaved then emancipated
but not free, the people
who look like me
keep fighting
and marching
and getting killed
so that today--
February 12, 1963
and every day from this moment on,
brown children, like me, can grow up
free. Can grow up
learning and voting and walking and riding
wherever we want.

I am born in Ohio but
the stories of South Carolina already run
like rivers
through my veins.

second daughter's second day on earth 
My birth certificate says: Female Negro 
Mother: Mary Anne Irby, 22, Negro 
Father: Jack Austin Woodson, 25, Negro
In Birmingham, Alabama, Martin Luther King Jr. 
is planning a march on Washington, where 
John F. Kennedy is president. 
In Harlem, Malcolm X is standing on a soapbox 
talking about a revolution. 
Outside the window of University Hospital, 
snow is slowly falling. So much already 
covers this vast Ohio ground. 
In Montgomery, only seven years have passed 
since Rosa Parks refused 
to give up 
her seat on a city bus. 
I am born brown-skinned, black-haired 
and wide-eyed. 
I am born Negro here and Colored there 
and somewhere else, 
the Freedom Singers have linked arms, 
their protests rising into song: 
Deep in my heart, I do believe 
that we shall overcome someday. 
and somewhere else, James Baldwin 
is writing about injustice, each novel, 
each essay, changing the world. 
I do not yet know who I'll be 
what I'll say 
how I'll say it . . . 
Not even three years have passed since a brown girl 
named Ruby Bridges 
walked into an all-white school. 
Armed guards surrounded her while hundreds 
of white people spat and called her names. 
She was six years old. 
I do not know if I'll be strong like Ruby. 
I do not know what the world will look like 
when I am finally able to walk, speak, write . . . 
Another Buckeye! 
the nurse says to my mother. 
Already, I am being named for this place. 
Ohio. The Buckeye State. 
My fingers curl into fists, automatically 
This is the way, my mother said, 
of every baby's hand. 
I do not know if these hands will become 
Malcolm's--raised and fisted 
or Martin's--open and asking 
or James's--curled around a pen. 
I do not know if these hands will be 
or Ruby's 
gently gloved 
and fiercely folded 
calmly in a lap, 
on a desk, 
around a book, 
to change the world . . .
it'll be scary sometimes 
My great-great-grandfather on my father's side 
was born free in Ohio, 
Built his home and farmed his land, 
then dug for coal when the farming 
wasn't enough. Fought hard 
in the war. His name in stone now 
on the Civil War Memorial: 
William J. Woodson 
United States Colored Troops, 
Union, Company B 5th Regt. 
A long time dead but living still 
among the other soldiers 
on that monument in Washington, D.C. 
His son was sent to Nelsonville 
lived with an aunt 
William Woodson 
the only brown boy in an all-white school. 
You'll face this in your life someday, 
my mother will tell us 
over and over again. 
A moment when you walk into a room and 
no one there is like you. 
It'll be scary sometimes. But think of William Woodson 
and you'll be all right.
the beginning 
I cannot write a word yet but at three, 
I now know the letter 
love the way it curves into a hook 
that I carefully top with a straight hat 
the way my sister has taught me to do. Love 
the sound of the letter and the promise 
that one day this will be connected to a full name, 
my own 
that I will be able to write 
by myself. 
Without my sister's hand over mine, 
making it do what I cannot yet do. 
How amazing these words are that slowly come to me. 
How wonderfully on and on they go. 
Will the words end, I ask 
whenever I remember to. 
Nope, my sister says, all of five years old now, 
and promising me 
hair night 
Saturday night smells of biscuits and burning hair. 
Supper done and my grandmother has transformed 
the kitchen into a beauty shop. Laid across the table 
is the hot comb, Dixie Peach hair grease, 
horsehair brush, parting stick 
and one girl at a time. 
Jackie first, my sister says, 
our freshly washed hair damp 
and spiraling over toweled shoulders 
and pale cotton nightgowns. 
She opens her book to the marked page, 
curls up in a chair pulled close 
to the wood-burning stove, bowl of peanuts in her lap. 
The words 
in her books are so small, I have to squint 
to see the letters. Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates. 
The House at Pooh Corner. Swiss Family Robinson. 
Thick books 
dog-eared from the handing down from neighbor 
to neighbor. My sister handles them gently, 
marks the pages with torn brown pieces 
of paper bag, wipes her hands before going 
beyond the hardbound covers. 
Read to me, I say, my eyes and scalp already stinging 
from the tug of the brush through my hair. 
And while my grandmother sets the hot comb 
on the flame, heats it just enough to pull 
my tight curls straighter, my sister's voice 
wafts over the kitchen, 
past the smell of hair and oil and flame, settles 
like a hand on my shoulder and holds me there. 
I want silver skates like Hans's, a place 
on a desert island. I have never seen the ocean 
but this, too, I can imagine--blue water pouring 
over red dirt. 
As my sister reads, the pictures begin forming 
as though someone has turned on a television, 
lowered the sound, 
pulled it up close. 
Grainy black-and-white pictures come slowly at me 
Deep. Infinite. Remembered 
On a bright December morning long ago . . . 
My sister's clear soft voice opens up the world to me. 
I lean in 
so hungry for it. 
Hold still now, my grandmother warns. 
So I sit on my hands to keep my mind 
off my hurting head, and my whole body still. 
But the rest of me is already leaving, 
the rest of me is already gone.
the butterfly poems 
No one believes me when I tell them 
I am writing a book about butterflies, 
even though they see me with the Childcraft encyclopedia 
heavy on my lap opened to the pages where 
the monarch, painted lady, giant swallowtail and 
queen butterflies live. Even one called a buckeye. 
When I write the first words 
Wings of a butterfly whisper . . . 
no one believes a whole book could ever come 
from something as simple as 
butterflies that don't even, my brother says, 
live that long. 
But on paper, things can live forever. 
On paper, a butterfly 
never dies.

Excerpted from Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Jacqueline Woodson's National Book Award and Newbery Honor winner is a powerful memoir that tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

A President Obama "O" Book Club pick

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.

Includes 7 additional poems, including "Brown Girl Dreaming."

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

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