Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 337 pgs.
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Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, a National Book Award Winner and Newbery Honor Book, is a coming-of-age novel in verse that is fresh and child-like in its perspective.  Jacqueline Woodson clearly bases her novel on her own experiences as a young black girl who grows up in a home with a single mother and older siblings.  Moving from Ohio and her father to Greenville, S.C., in the 1960s to live with her mother, siblings, and grandparents, Jackie is too young to understand the breakup of her family and remember her past.  Running in parallel to the Civil Rights Movement, young Jackie learning her letters and trying to keep up with her older siblings.  As she finds she doesn’t measure up to her smart sister in the classroom, she also learns that each sibling may have hidden talents, like her brother’s singing voice.

From "February 12, 1963" (pg.1-2)

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

From "My Mother and Grace" (page 25-26)

Both know that southern way of talking
without words, remember when
the heat of summer
could melt the mouth,
so southerners stayed quiet

Jackie is a young girl finding her way, looking to be strong, but also learning to listen to her elders and to others influencing the civil rights movement. She hasn’t made up her mind, but she’s learning piece by piece what it means to be a young black woman in the south and how that differs from being black in New York.  Woodson’s style is frank, but firmly rooted in the point of view of a young girl who observes both the benefits of the movement and the drawbacks of fighting for what you believe in.  Along the way, she becomes friends with Maria whose mother cooks the best Hispanic food, and they do everything together, including swap dinners in the stairwell.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson is a journey of a young black woman growing up in the 60s and 70s and serves as an excellent introduction to not only the time period, but also the struggles of black in the south and in the north for those ages 10 and up.  There are moments in which the author relies on a dream-like quality to present her narrator’s ideals, but at other points, it is very clear cut what has happened.  In many ways, this rendition is a mere outline of the harsher parts of life and it is reflected well through a child’s eyes.

About the Author:

Jacqueline Woodson is an American writer of books for children and adolescents. She is best known for Miracle’s Boys, which won the Coretta Scott King Award in 2001, and her Newbery Honor-winning titles Brown Girl Dreaming, After Tupac & D Foster, Feathers, and Show Way. Her work is filled with strong African-American themes, generally aimed at a young adult audience.

For her lifetime contribution as a children’s writer, Woodson won the Margaret Edwards Award in 2005 and she was the U.S. nominee for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2014. IBBY named her one of six Andersen Award finalists on March 17, 2014. She won the National Book Award in 2014 in the category of “Young People’s Literature” for Brown Girl Dreaming.







  1. Some of this book was very close to home for me–the author’s age, and that they started out in Columbus, near where I’m living now.

  2. bermudaonion(Kathy) says

    This sounds like a very important book.

  3. Anna (Diary of an Eccentric) says

    I’ve been curious about this book. Glad you enjoyed it.