Brown Girl Dreaming is a collection of poems about her childhood Woodson wrote. It begins with her birth and goes through about 5th grade and chronicles her early years in South Carolina and her elementary years in New York City. Both southern and northern city girl, Woodson's poems reflect her desire for a home and place, but the pull of two and not really belonging fully to either. As she was born in 1963, the book is set agains the backdrop of Civil Rights, Black Panthers, and Vietnam. There are difficult themes and scenarios explored, but all through the view of her child's eyes, making them easy for child readers to relate to and understand. In giving the world her story, she has opened a window on the time period, but also given us all a window into how a child perceived it. It is excellent and very well done.
What struck me most about the poems was Woodson's use of imagery. The places she is are so well described you feel like you are actually there. Her talent for imagery and description extends itself to the people around her so that I felt like I actually knew them and could picture them plainly in front of me. The book made me cry and laugh. I do think it is a little long, but since it is poetry it is still a rather quick read.
The long list for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature was released this week and it is no surprise that Brown Girl Dreaming is on it.