Monday, August 8, 2016

book review: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

The backstory: I've adored Jacqueline Woodson's books for kids and young adults for many years, and when I heard she had a novel for adults coming out this summer, I squealed.

Seeing Jacqueline Woodson speak at ALA in June was one of the highlights of the conference for me (picture below.) She spoke at the same time as John Lewis, and I debated which one to go see. I chose Woodson because I haven't seen her speak before. I was lucky enough to have John Lewis as my Congressional Representative for many years, and I (not foolishly I hope) expect I'll have other chances to hear him speak again.

The basics: Another Brooklyn is the story of August and her memories of growing up in Brooklyn in the 1970's and 1980's.

My thoughts: Another Brooklyn captivated me from the first page. There is a sparseness to Woodson's prose in this novel that is poetic. I savored this book and hung on every single word. It's easy to do, as much of the novel is told in vignettes, which make up chapters. As I reader, I got the sense Woodson labored over each word, yet it had a beautiful flow. It showed restraint, yet it captures so much more than words.

Necessarily, the novel is told with the wisdom of age, and these brief passages (taken from different parts) beautifully showcase the way Woodson tells this story with the wisdom of age but the emotion of youth:
"Our legs got long. Soemthing about the curve of our lips and the sway of our head suggested more to starngers than we understood."
"One day, I'd have full breasts, hips, and large hands. One day, my body would tell the world stories beneath the fabric of my clothes." 
I read this novel in the span of a few hours, and while I read it, I fully lived inside its pages. It's one I will think back on for many years to come, both for Woodson's writing, as well as the power of how she tells such a big story with so few words and pages.

Favorite passage: "When you're fifteen, pain skips over reason, aims right for marrow. I don't know how long I stood there staring at them, watching Jerome slip his hand from Sylvia's, watching Sylia inch away. Where're you heading? When you're fifteen, the world collapses in a moment, different than when you're eight and you learn that your mother walked into water--and kept on walking."

The verdict: Woodson is a deeply gifted writer and storyteller, and both talents are on full display in Another Brooklyn. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 192 pages
Publication date: August 9, 2016 
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Another Brooklyn from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Jacqueline Woodson at ALA, June 2016
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