Jo’s Pick of the Week: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

jacquelinewoodsonJacqueline Woodson’s first adult novel in 20 years, Another Brooklyn, is a slight but mighty coming-of-age story. The lyrical writing is told from the viewpoint of a female archaeologist named August, who returns home to Brooklyn to be with her dying father. After seeing a former best friend on the bus, memories send her back to her hopeful but troubled childhood during the 1970s.

When August and her little brother moved with their father from Tennessee to Brooklyn, they spent their first young years watching the world go by through their apartment window while he worked. He wouldn’t let them leave the building without him, saying it was too dangerous. August was fascinated by watching the people hurrying by. anotherbrooklyn“Everywhere we looked, we saw the people trying to dream themselves out. As though there was someplace other than this place. As though there was another Brooklyn.’’

August’s life finally changed when her father gave her the freedom to go outside on her own. She met three girls, Gigi, Angela and Sylvia, who became her best friends. August, Gigi and Angela longed to be like Sylvia, whose family could afford nice wardrobes and music lessons. But in Sylvia’s house, her friends with the tattered clothes were not received warmly. “Sylvia’s mother’s flick of an eye said to us again and again, Don’t dream. Dreams are not for people who look like you.’’

Woodson’s stirring novel about a young girl trying to find her real self beautifully captures the challenges of growing up on the edge of poverty. The author is known for her talent as a writer for children and young adults, but I hope she will also write more adult fiction. She is the Poetry Foundation’s current Young People’s Poet Laureate and won the National Book Award for her moving memoir written in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, which I also highly recommend.

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