brown girl dreaming is the coming-of-age story of author, Jacqueline Woodson. She grows up between the South and the North during the civil rights movement. Her memories, written in free verse, tell the stories of her family, of the culture of the time, of her friends, but what I loved most is how she realized she was going to be a writer at a very young age, and chronicles that journey through this book. Here are some excerpts of my favorite parts.
on paper, page 156
The first time I write my full name
Jacqueline Amanda Woodson
without anybody's help
on a clean white page in my composition notebook,
if I wanted to
I could write anything.
Letters becoming words, words gathering meaning,
thoughts outside my head
Jacquline Amanda Woodson
writing #1, page 217
It's easier to make up stories
than it is to write them down. When I speak,
the words come pouring out of me. The story
wakes up and walks all over the room. Sits in a chair,
crosses one leg over the other, says
Let me introduce myself. Then just starts going on and on.
But as I bend over my composition notebook,
only my name
comes quickly. Each letter, neatly printed
between the pale blue lines. Then white
space and air and me wondering, How do I
spell introduce? Trying again and again
until there is nothing but pink
bits of eraser and a hole now
where a story should be.
when i tell my family, page 229
When I tell my family
I want to be a writer, they smile and say,
We see you in the backyard with your writing.
We hear you making up all those stories.
We used to write poems.
It's a good hobby, we see how quiet it keeps you.
But maybe you should be a teacher,
I'll think about it, I say
And maybe all of us know
this is just another one of my
from the selfish giant, page 247
But I just shrug, not knowing what to say.
How can I explain to anyone that stories
are like air to me,
I breathe them in and let them out
over and over again.
how to listen #10, page 310
Write down what I think
I know. The knowing will come.
Just keep listening...
and even though that's already five, I have to leave you with one more, a poem from the end of the book.
every wish, one dream, page 313-314
Every dandelion blown
each Star light, star bring
The first star I see tonight.
My wish is always the same.
Every fallen eyelash
and first firefly of summer...
The dream remains.
What did you wish for?
To be a writer.
Every heads-up penny found
and daydream and night dream
and even when people say it's a pope dream....!
I want to be a writer.
Every sunrise and sunset and song
against a cold windowpane.
Passing the mountains.
Passing the sea.
Every story read
every poem remembered:
I loved my friend
When I see birches bend to left and right
"Nay," answered the child: "but these are the wounds of Love."
Froggie went a-courting, and he did ride
brings me closer
and closer to the dream.
Beautiful or what? I love how over the course of the book, you can see how she wants to be a writer, but she's unsure. She can't get the stories in her head on paper. She tells her family, but they think maybe she should do something else. But all along, Jacqueline knows that stories are part of her - she breathes them, remembers them like it's nothing. She listens hard to what's going on around her. She wishes to be a writer, always has the same dream.
Authors are so creative. I read a little of Mem Fox's Radical Reflections where she says she has like 4 original ideas a year and that's how I feel. I love to write, but I'm not super creative.... This book just gives me hope that if I stick with it - with the wide reading and the writing - someday, something will come.
Have you read brown girl dreaming? What do you think?