I thought I’d read a few Jacqueline Woodson books before, but maybe I’ve just been following her writing career. She has won just about every award a children’s book writer can win—3 Newbery Honors, 1 Coretta Scott King Award and 3 honors, 2 lifetime achievement awards for YA Literature (Margaret A. Edwards Award and ALAN Award,) and 2 National Book Awards.
I discovered brown girl dreaming right before the National Book Award was announced. Narrated by the author, brown girl dreaming is written in verse and the poems all fit together to tell Jacqueline’s story—what it was like growing up in South Carolina and New York City during the civil rights movement, and how crucial words and stories were to her as a girl.
AudioFile Magazine gave brown girl dreaming an Earphone’s award. This award is given to truly exceptional presentations that excel in narrative voice and style; vocal characterizations; appropriateness for the audio format and enhancement of the text. AudioFile writes of the audiobook: “Her voice is wistful and dreamy as she savors rich sensory memories like crickets, ‘who seem to know their song is our lullaby,’ and sitting beside her beloved grandfather on ‘a front porch swing thirsty for oil.’”
brown girl dreaming is a fast listen and I found myself smiling at her references to popular music in the 1970s—the Carpenters and John Denver aren’t mentioned by name, but I knew just what she was talking about, the songs she listened to on the white people’s radio station, since her mother wouldn’t let her listen to anything with the word “funk” in it.
Jacqueline was raised Jehovah’s Witness and the rules and rigors of her religion are sprinkled throughout her story. I have a soft spot for Jehovah’s Witnesses—they remind me of my grandfather, who would invite them inside to hear what they had to say, despite being a devout Roman Catholic. I think it drove my grandma a bit nuts.
I’m putting Jacqueline Woodson’s other books on my “To Read ASAP” list. Listening to brown girl dreaming gave me a view into this writer’s childhood, and a new perspective on my own girlhood. Listening to her story was a real pleasure and I can’t wait to listen and/or read more.
Enjoy this sample of brown girl dreaming, published by Penguin Audio, 2014