SOL #12 Reading Brown Girl Dreaming

I had a really rough night, got up at 6 and notified a sub. I’m taking a mental health day. A wise choice, a necessary choice and grounds for a different slice one day. I’ve spent most of the day in bed, resting and reading. The book on top of my nightstand pile is Brown Girl Dreaming, a memoir in verse by Jacqueline Woodson.

I’ve read the book before and remember being charmed by the fact that she was born in Ohio (like me), grew up in the 70’s listening to soul music (like me), and had a way with words her whole life long (*wishing* like me). But reading the book, this time, more than one half of it, uninterrupted, while at rest – I had a completely different experience. I drank in her memories as if they were my own. Imagined the handsome uncle, the doting grandfather, the purpose-driven mother as if I had known them myself. I felt like that Brown Girl Dreaming.

At the end of the book there’s a selection of family snapshots from both sides. And these look like photographs I would find of my own family: Grandmother, Willie Mae, Uncle Gene, Aunt Mamie and Uncle Sam, Uncles Thad and Townsand, Mom and Dad, Carlton and Carol. Jackie Woodson’s folks look like my people – brown skinned and shiny, laughing with heads cocked to one side. To feel that kinship on a day that began as if the world was a little too heavy – an enormous gift.

I savor the reading. Woodson’s careful descriptions of the people who shaped her world breathe life back into my own hopes of capturing some of my memories on the page. I savor seeing and being seen.

There are few joys as great as reading the right book at exactly the right time.


15 thoughts on “SOL #12 Reading Brown Girl Dreaming

  1. This is so true: few pleasures in life like the right book at the right time. I loved this book when I first read it and have been wanting to reread ever since, even though I rarely reread. I hope you have a wonderful day filled with self-care! (And more reading!)

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  2. It’s delightful to hear about the power of a book to comfort us on a tough day. You wrote “I savor seeing and being seen.” I think that is the essence of the writing challenge.

    I’m still thinking about one of your previous posts about race. You’ve got me thinking about an issue that was otherwise not on my immediate radar, and I appreciate it.


  3. Love this book and the way the verse captures slices of life in the most vivid yet abstract way. I think the blank spaces on the pages are as important as the text. The space invite and acknowledge fragments, perspectives, and fissures of the moments beyond words. Thank you for bringing me back to my reading of Brown Girl Dreaming.

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  4. I love that book! Reading about her childhood and her experiences in school really made me look at a lot of my students differently, especially when she talks about her experiences with writing and not necessarily being the most successful student in the conventional way that her sister was.

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  5. Sherri,
    We often forget to check our own “barometer” and how we are doing. Sounds like you have turned this day around.

    This “I savor the reading. Woodson’s careful descriptions of the people who shaped her world breathe life back into my own hopes of capturing some of my memories on the page. I savor seeing and being seen.” …is tugging on my heart. Growing up poor and rural . . . family was our focus! And even in a crowd it is possible to be alone.

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    1. I am touched by your words, Fran. Whenever we do take time to think about whence we came and how that has shaped us, the emotions that emerge can be powerful. Taking yesterday to recover and press pause with this reading has had a distinctly healing effect.


  6. I absolutely adore this book and have used it as a mentor text for memoir, poetry, and the power of revision – Woodson says she revised it something like thirty-five times. How it paid off! The images and stories live and breathe.


  7. What a lovely post. I love the line “I drank in her memories as if they were my own.” It’s so cozy to take a mental health day, stay in bed, and savor a book that brings you comfort and joy. I’ve used parts of that book as writing prompts for workshops. I do think you should send this to Jacqueline Woodson.

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