Brown Girl Dreaming

Since I said I’d let you know if I predicted the Newbery correctly, I will just say that if this were an official betting arena, I would have won twice in the “place” category as Jacqueline Woodson carried home both Newbery and Sibert honor titles and once in the “win” with her Coretta Scott King Award. This is my take on Brown Girl Dreaming, written before the awards:

I’ve mentioned before that I liked Jacqueline Woodson’s metaphor of books as windows and mirrors where readers can find those both like and different from themselves. I read her Brown Girl Dreaming shortly after she won the National Book Award and saw another element in the metaphor. Sometimes the light strikes a window in such a way that one can see not only what lies outside but a reflection of oneself.

I grew up in a very different world from Jackie’s so I expected this book to be a window. But I saw a reflection of myself in her sister Dell and a couple of my sisters in Jackie. The poem titled “Tomboy” could have been a picture of me as Dell who never “learned to sprint . . .  become the fastest girl on Madison Street . . . or kick the can because she reads and reads and reads.” Like Jackie, my sister Beth would have loved all of those and earned the nickname “Tomboy.”      

When my sisters looked for me, I might not have been under the kitchen table like Dell, but I would have had a book and could have tuned out all their noise as I turned another page.      

Because Ruth was nine years younger, I could tell Jackie that Dell enjoyed holding her hand to teach her to write her name. I savored my favorite line in the book, “When my sister reads to me, I wait for the moment when the story moves faster – toward the happy ending I know is coming,” remembering that same anticipation in Ruth’s face as I read to her or told her stories.

Brown Girl Dreaming is a beautiful view out the window with the light shining just right to reflect some cherished memories. It makes me think that even as we read looking out the window, we may find as much alike as we find different.

Which leaves me with just one problem. I’ll have to add The Crossover by Kwame Alexander to my reading list to see if the committee really made the right decision in placing it first. It might be noted that I have sometimes disagreed with the illustrious Newbery Committee.