By Jacqueline Woodson.
I first saw this book at the Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge and was intrigued. This year when thinking of poetry books for book club it came to mind again. Then I was interested in reading more books by black women, and again it popped up. I got it from the NYC public library and read it in a dash.
It is somewhere between poetry and a novel and a memoir. Jacqueline tells her own story of growing up on Ohio and then South Carolina and then Brooklyn, topping out somewhere around age 10. She writes in an easy poetic form that is almost more stream of consciousness than poetry, though it slows the reader down and, I think, helps get into the mind of a very young girl.
Part of the story is about her family, her mother leaving her father, her father not wanting to return to the South, the birth of her little brother, the genius of her sister Dell (always reading) and her brother Hope (interested in science), her grandparents in Greenville, her grandfather who she is particularly close to, her grandmother’s religion (Jehovah’s Witness) and her grandfather not participating. But it also about the way she is treated differently in Greenville as a black child — sitting at the back of the bus, not being served in Walmart. And the protests and activism going on at the time, from the perspective of a five year old girl.
But it is also about her becoming a writer, making up endless stories as a child, being chided for this, being chided for reading below her level, her eagerness to write, her excitement as making up things ‘too good’ to believe. It is a wonderful development, how sure she is in her desire, how natural or innate it seems to her.
The book is fascinating and delightful, vivid in this strange way of tunneling into a little girl’s mind and re-seeing everything. It was a fairly fast read, the poetic form makes it short, but it was delightful. Maybe I should buy a copy so that I can read it again later.