In Brown Girl Dreaming, author Jacqueline Woodson describes her childhood growing up in Ohio, South Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York through a collection of lyrical poems. Brown Girl Dreaming engages all of the senses to express experiences and feelings that are both universal and uniquely her own.
Ms. Woodson was born in Ohio in 1963, the same year of the Birmingham, Alabama children’s campaign at the height of the civil rights movement. Woodson believes that growing up during the sixties and seventies, a time of upheaval and social change, helped to form who she is.
On her website, Ms. Woodson said, “I wanted to understand who my mom was before she was my mother and I wanted to understand exactly how I became a writer. So I started researching my life, asking relatives and talking to friends – and mostly, just letting myself remember.”
Although she lived her early years in Ohio, her father’s home, Woodson moved to South Carolina with her mother and siblings when her parents separated. Her family moved in with her mother’s parents in a house in the country surrounded by farmland where her grandfather cultivated a garden that provided fresh vegetables for the family.
Woodson’s poems from that time describe a wonderful childhood, surrounded by nature and the love of her family. She was especially close to her grandfather. Her mother travelled to New York to find work and eventually moved the family to Brooklyn, New York. Woodson tells stories about her experiences in New York, her best friend, Maria, her grandfather’s death, and her strict religious upbringing.
As a child, Ms. Woodson struggled with reading and writing. She taught herself to read and write by reading the same books over and over again until she memorized them, copying the lyrics to songs, and writing down the words to TV commercials. She liked to read picture books even though everyone thought she was too old for them. What young Woodson did best was listen. She was a careful observer and much of what she saw was worked into her stories.
Woodson was good at making up stories but had trouble writing them down. Even with all her difficulties, she knew she wanted to become a writer and she never gave up. Her first book was a collection of seven poems called Butterflies. She cut out pages and stapled them together, writing a poem on each page. In the fifth grade, her teacher told Woodson that she was a writer and had her read a poem that she had written to the class.
We know Ms. Woodson grew up to become a very successful writer. She has written dozens picture books, middle grade, and young adult novels and has won many awards. Brown Girl Dreaming won the National Book Award for 2014. Visit her website http://www.jacquelinewoodson.com to learn more about the author and her books.