Every month I get so excited to share a book with you, my favorite book club, and this month was no exception. I checked Brown Girl Dreaming out from the library, and I got busy on it. I’ll be honest I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I hadn’t really read up on the selection for this month before choosing it. I had only heard from people I trusted that it was excellent, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Brown Girl Dreaming isn’t a book of poetry, but it is a poem. It is a free form poem and a memoir. I’m a white girl who grew up in the South. I grew up far from the days of written about in this book, but I know I haven’t grown up in a time when the sentiment is removed completely. Racism is alive and well in our country, not just the South, and it is something we need to be discussing. We’ve grown accustomed to stories of police brutality and unnecessary loss of life that often demonstrate racist thoughts. We’ve shown that there is still much bias toward those who are different from us. I think that letting your middle grade reader devour this book would be a helpful way to start a deeper discussion than just the cursory politeness. We have to discuss history to move forward. We have to know what came before us and know the pitfalls that we still succumb to today.
It was only just yesterday that I saw a friend of mine discussing why the President looked darker and scarier in some political ads than others. This just demonstrates that we still have far to go. Jacqueline Woodson describes life during the Civil Rights Movement in a way that is beautiful. It’s described in a way that lets you know that life was beautiful to her despite what was going on at that time. She was a small child who didn’t really comprehend everything, but she knew times were changing. She didn’t have the words to describe it at the time though.
She talks frequently of how the words wouldn’t come. She talks of how people told her not to make up so many stories. She talks about how people thought she was lying, but she was just pretending. She was just letting her mind wander so that she could create this beautiful work of art. I don’t know any better way to describe it ya’ll. It’s just so well written. It describes the love of family.
There are so many times in the book when I recognize my South. The truth is that our lives were different. The times were different. Our families weren’t so different. We were loved by many. We were raised by a community of people. We loved the smell of honeysuckle in the summer. Life was simple for Jacqueline in some ways even though life was not simple at all. She knew that they didn’t shop at Woolworths, because they weren’t allowed to sit at the lunch counter, and she carried this with her even to the North. She knew that her side of town was different, but like me she ran around barefoot playing in the yard and loving her grandfather. You are reminded that life is definitely not so different just because you don’t look-alike, which was something I already knew but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate.
I love where I grew up. History is sad, but I know that we can continue to learn and grow as a society. I know that we can let children be children. I know that we can all enjoy the smell of honeysuckle in the summer.
What was your takeaway from Brown Girl Dreaming? Did you enjoy this book club suggestion? What would you suggest for next months book club read? I have some ideas in mind, but I’d love to hear from ya’ll.