Brown Girl Dreamingby Jacqueline Woodson: Part III - V
part III - followed the sky’s mirrored constellation to freedom
I love when you find that one “thing” that just feels right to you and makes sense to you. For Jacqueline, it’s a blank notebook that fills her with so much joy, even though she doesn’t know how to write yet. And people think she’s crazy and can’t understand what she could possibly gain from an item that she can’t use yet. But I think it’s pretty great to just be happy with no clear reason because why do we need a logical reason to be happy? Isn’t it better to just BE happy? Go and try that in your life. Just FEEL happy and don’t go looking for a reason to justify that feeling (and I do know this may be hard for some people depending on their current circumstance, but if it is possible, try to just be happy right now).
I enjoy imagination and it’s a big reason why I love reading. It’s fun to picture the stories in my head, like how a character or particular setting might look like. And even though there are movie adaptations that can help build this new world, I still like to hold on to how I interpret the stories myself. So I really relate to this poem, especially when Jacqueline says “It’s hard to understand the way my brain works — so different from everybody around me. How each new story I’m told becomes a thing that happens, in some other way to me … !” I’m sure all book lovers can relate to this quote somehow because for me, a lot of the stories I read feel real to me.
I have actual strong feelings for particular books, especially On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (it’s my absolute favorite book). The song Yellow Light by Of Monsters and Men reminds me of this book and the characters (mostly because it’s the album I was listening to the first time I read it) and every time I hear it, I get pretty emotional, LOL. I’m very attached to these characters, so in some way, I do feel like I know these people and that’s just how my brain has been wired.
part IV - deep in my heart, i do believe
Read at your own pace. Read books that YOU enjoy. Don’t ever feel like what you choose to read isn’t good enough just because others don’t enjoy it (also don’t be book snobs). Don’t feel like you have to compete with others/be at the same level because everyone is a different reader. Just enjoy the stories. Reading is fun, so keep it fun!
stevie and me
I got pretty emotional by the end of this poem because it proves how important representation is in books (and other forms of storytelling). At the end, it says “I’d never have believed that someone who looked like me could be in the pages of the book; that someone who looked like me had a story.”
part V - ready to change the world
This was the perfect poem to end the book because it describes the different worlds that she has created for herself and that she has a choice of which world she will live in each day. Each world basically represents all the different things that makes her who she is. And just like Jacqueline, we are also made up of different worlds. We could be an employee in an office, a daughter in a large family, the funny one in a group of friends, or a student attending a university. The list can go on and on, and it’s really up to you to decide how many worlds you want to live in. Life gives you all these opportunities to enter a new world. So go out there and explore because it’s really up to you to decide how you want to live your life.
That’s the end of the book and it was a really great one! I don’t normally read books written in verse, so this was a really wonderful experience because it was different (in a good way!). I was really impressed at how powerful a story could be in such a small amount of words. This is the first book I’ve read from this author and I’m definitely going to read more from her.
Thanks again to Tumblr, Penguin, Jacqueline Woodson, and the reblogbookclub for letting me participate in this book club!
On “Stevie and Me” from Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming
If someone had been fussing with me
to read like my sister, I might have missed
the picture book filled with brown people, more
brown people than I’d ever seen
in a book before
If someone had taken
that book out of my hand
said, You’re too old for this
I’d never have believed
that someone who looked like me
could be in the pages of the book
that someone who looked like me
had a story.
In “Stevie and Me,” Jacqueline Woodson writes about her experience going to the library with her brothers and sisters every Monday after school. Woodson was pressured by her teachers to “read faster” and “read older” and “read harder books.” But on those Monday afternoons at the library, the importance was put on reading books — whatever the grade level. And that’s where Woodson found Stevie by John Steptoe.
Woodson marks that library visit — that book — as the first time a book showed her that African American children have a story.
For the first 22 years of my life, I had little say over my home. My parents left their respective childhood homes in Mexico and Southern California and settled in Washington, where they raised my younger sister and me. Last summer, I moved to the Bay Area to make a new home for myself. Like Jacqueline’s mother, I found something especially enticing about a big city. Here, I rent a spare bedroom in a large, beautiful house that neither feels comfortable nor mine. While I am in this fluctuating state, however, I have found a sense of home in the relationship I have with my boyfriend, and am content knowing that we share a city and a space that belongs to us.
When was the first time you got to choose your own home? What did you choose?
Brown Girl Dreaming: #ReblogBookClub Week 1
A few thoughts on Parts I & II of Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming:
- The format of the book feels informal, as if Woodson has been jotting down these observations since she was a child. In other words, it feels very present. As a reader, I am right there with the author, eavesdropping on conversations and witnessing moments that happened years before I was born. It makes for an intimate experience.
- Several themes stuck with me in Part I: heritage and, separately, the things that our parents give us as children.
- Heritage can be both a burden and a source of pride. Jacqueline juxtaposes her family’s roots in slavery and the South with the illustrious Woodson line, peppered with doctors, lawyers, athletes, and more. Her mother is irrevocably tied to her home in South Carolina; almost in equal measure, her father cannot bear the idea of living outside of Ohio. Both are deeply rooted to a sense of place and belonging, and this creates a wedge that ultimately drives them apart. Heritage is inescapable – it can give us something to atone for and something to take solace in.
- Although parents pass along their heritage, both culturally and genetically, they also choose what things they give to their children, things to shape character and identity. Jacqueline’s father bequeaths her his name, or tries to, because he believes it will set her apart and make her strong. Jacqueline’s mother equips her with the strength to survive, the strength to know who she is in the face of incomprehensible injustice.
- In Part II, I was struck by the fluid concept of home. Is home a place, a person, a feeling? Jacqueline’s mother returns home and finds her family scattered, broken, and gone. She no longer has that sense of security and identity in her childhood town, nor can she content herself with her children alone. She flees to New York to try and find a place that feels like home.
- Meanwhile, her children make their home with their grandparents in Greenville, where “Grandfather” becomes “Daddy,” where their grandmother forces them to assume a strict spiritual identity, and where they start to glimpse, in bits and pieces, the battle against racism. For them, home is not something they are allowed to choose for themselves, but something they adapt to out of necessity – a grandparent’s love, a warm stove and biscuits in the winter, a front porch where they are taught whom to associate with and whom to avoid.
- After reading Part II, I thought a lot about what home means to me. For the first 22 years of my life, I had little say over my home. My parents left their respective childhood homes in Mexico and Southern California and settled in Washington, where they raised my younger sister and me. Last summer, I moved to the Bay Area to make a new home for myself. Like Jacqueline’s mother, I found something especially enticing about a big city. Here, I rent a spare bedroom in a large, beautiful house that neither feels comfortable nor mine. While I am in this fluctuating state, however, I have found a sense of home in the relationship I have with my boyfriend, and am content knowing that we share a city and a space that belongs to us.
- A final thought for now: In many books and films I’ve watched about the oppression of the 1950s and 60s, stories seem to revolve around one activist or event, from Rosa Parks to Martin Luther King, Jr. What happens with those stories, as powerful as they are, is that they are quickly explained and quickly resolved. By contrast, Brown Girl Dreaming not only spans the spectrum of racist attitudes and behavior, but helps the reader understand how long of a process this was (is), and how difficult it was just to discuss solutions to these problems in safety, let alone carry them out.
I Grew Up In The South
Same. So much of it feels familiar, and so much makes me feel my privilege very deeply.
When I first started the book, I was struck with how very recent it all is. The author was born the same year as my parents, who are not old, not at all. When I’ve studied the civil rights movement, it’s felt like history- names and dates, disgust/horror/shame at the way things were, important events, brave people, but not that visceral connection. Not something I live with everyday. And that’s definitely white privilege, that it could feel distant.
So I mostly find myself wanting to read and listen. Understand better.
I love this quote. I just thought it was a good reminder to be strong through the tough times in life, because they come and go. They’re not fun to deal with, but it’s nice to have the hope that things won’t always be bad.
At the same time, it’s important to recognize the good things we have and appreciate them while they last. I know I tend to take things like awesome friends and fun days and good experiences for granted sometimes when really I should be trying to enjoy all these great things I’ve been blessed with.
I’ve really been enjoying my time with this book, and I’m curious to see where it goes from here.
I Grew Up In The South
I grew up in the south.
I was born, in 1985, in Richmond, and taken home to King William County.
I grew up in the south, and I too know the smell of honeysuckle that
comes in May (night bus), but it took leaving to even realize the south
smells a particular way.
I grew up in the south, but I did not grow up brown or black.
So much about brown girl dreaming is universal. I want to point out all the ways it resonates with me, gives me the perfect words for things I’ve
Yes, give me words for how it feels to get a call telling you that a
loved one has been lost to a speeding car.
Tell me about nights reminiscing with cousins and people who have know
you’ve since you were a girl.
But there is so much I don’t know, that I haven’t experienced.
In the mid-1960’s, for their safety, her family had to leave home under the cover of darkness to travel north (after greenville #1).
That surprised me, but maybe it shouldn’t have.
This book has challenged me, and I feel myself shying away from posting about some of the major topics of this story because I worry I’ll say the wrong thing, that I will inadvertently cause offense.
Yes, we read to feel less alone, but we should also read to learn
about experiences outside of our own.
We need diverse books.
In her new memoir for young adults, Woodson uses free verse to tell the story of growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. Her work for young readers often touches on themes of race and identity.
Jackie Woodson on NPR discussing BROWN GIRL DREAMING. What an incredible spokeswoman for children’s literature!