Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson

What I Believe

I believe in God and evolution.

I believe in the Bible and the Qur’an

I believe in Christmas and the New World.

I believe that there is good in each of us

no matter who we are or what we believe in.

I believe in the words of my grandfather.

I believe in the city and the South

the past and the present.

I believe in Black people and White people coming


I believe in nonviolence and “Power to the People.”

I believe in my little brother’s pale skin and my own

dark brown.

I believe in my sister’s brilliance and the too-easy

books I love to read.

I believe in my mother on a bus and Black people

refusing to ride.

I believe in good friends and good food.

I believe in johnny pumps and jump ropes,

Malcolm and Martin, Buckeyes and Birmingham,

writing and listening, bad words and good words –

I believe in Brooklyn!

I believe in one day and someday and this perfect moment called Now.

Excerpt from Brown Girl Dreaming (Woodson 317-18)

This book was phenomenal.

Written in poetry, the memoir follows the young author from her home in Ohio to her mother’s family’s home in South Carolina, and eventually to a home in New York that she, her mother, and her brothers and sister share.

With reflection on the civil rights movement and personal insight, Woodson uses language appropriate for a pre-teen just becoming interested in learning about their history or the history of their peers.

This memoir was suggested to me by the librarian at an elementary school within the district, and though it is a few grade levels above those which she teaches, it definitely has lines which could be used as poetic examples for any grade level, whether below or above the level of secondary education.

One of Woodson’s brothers bears the name Hope. At the point in the memoir where he is discovering his aversion to the South’s autumn air, he discovers the wonderful world of illustrated literature and “stays mostly quiet unless asked to speak, his head bent inside the superhero comic books my  grandfather brings home on Fridays. Hope searches for himself inside their pages” (Woodson 64). Lines similar to the latter are exactly why I give this book such acclaim. The serendipity of her brother’s name gives two separate, yet just as bright and powerful meanings to his attempt to discover himself.

There is a meeting at the Kent District Library Caledonia branch this Thursday to discuss the book, for anyone dedicated to finishing the memoir before then. Ultimately, it took me two and a half hours to finish the 320-page book, and if you’re interested in churning it out as well, there are various formats available to read via the KDL website (paperback, audio, e-book, etc). Link can be found here.

Happy reading!


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