Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Brown Girl Dreaming (by Jacqueline Woodson)

This is a book I'd heard a lot about, and I wanted to make an effort to read more works by women and writers of color this year, so I put it on my wishlist of books I would read in 2015. I haven't gotten through much of my list this year (I blame Don Quixote's enchanters) but I'm very glad I got through this one.

It's technically a middle-grade novel -- and the basic coming-of-age plot is very easy to understand. However, that does not make it in any way simple. It's told in free verse in short chapters, hiding complexity within simplicity, reminding me strongly of The House on Mango Street in that and many other ways.

It would be wonderful in the classroom, as it's both technically interesting and emotionally compelling without being depressing or feeling to students like a broccoli book. The sense of place -- South Carolina vs. Brooklyn -- is particularly vivid. I can imagine asking students at different levels to analyze the language, use it to help make an argument about social justice, or use it as a jumping off point for their own personal writing. It's wonderful.

My friend Melissa suggested picking up the audiobook, read by the author. I can imagine that would be powerful as well. I loved reading about Jacqueline's life, maybe particularly about her complex inner life. Her memories of her grandfather reminded me of my own much-beloved grandmother and brought me to tears.  It's not a broccoli book. Check it out.

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