Tag Archives: poetry

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide

Pages:  337

Published:  August 28, 2014

Awards:  National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (2014), Newbery Honor (2015), Sibert Honor (2015), Coretta Scott King Award for Author (2015), Claudia Lewis Award for Older Readers (2015) Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Middle Grade & Children’s (2014), YALSA Award Nominee for Excellence in Nonfiction (2015), Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor for Nonfiction (2015) .

Format:  E-book

This is a beautifully written memoir set in poetry by the much acclaimed author Jacqueline Woodson.  Jacqueline’s aunt Ada, a genealogist and family historian, provided Jacqueline with tremendous family history with which this book begins that adds depth and history to the memoir.   There is always a contrast between the north an south running like a current through this book.  Jacqueline and her family begin in Ohio visiting South Carolina in the summer.   They ultimately begin alternating between Brooklyn and South Carolina.

Jacqueline Woodson is so eloquent in ascribing the haziness of memory and how feelings and emotions at the time become the more important element.  The poetic format for placing these snippets of memory seems so honest and heartfelt.

This is a small volume, yet contains so much.  There is so much history, especially regarding the Civil Rights Movement, written into these pages.  There is the effect of teachers on a young girl’s self-confidence when they praise her writing.  There is the love of a family; the complete trust and vulnerability of young children knowing that they are safe with family they love.  There is the beauty of forever friendships, these early friendships that are so important and make life so much more enjoyable.  This is a book about race, about growing up as a Jehovah’s witness, about dreams in childhood that have so wonderfully come to fruition for Jacqueline Woodson.

This book has been marketed as middle grade, but I would recommend it to everyone.  It is a remarkably beautiful collection of poetry, rich in history.  I think it is so hard to write from a child’s perspective and honestly capture the thoughts and perspective from that time in life, but Jacqueline Woodson does so brilliantly.  I love how within this book, Jacqueline talks about how she does not read quickly like her sister.  She takes her time with books, reading, thinking, re-reading, enjoying.  This, I believe, is how one should read Brown Girl Dreaming,  There is so much to take away and enjoy from each chapter/poem.

I loved this book for being a beautiful heartfelt collection of poetry, for moving me in ways I did not expect to be moved, for giving young girls hope and reason to dream, for beautifully describing family, and so much more.  Beyond that, I also appreciate that this adds to the growing body of diverse literature, especially for young people.

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Who are the strongest influences on Jacqueline’s identity?  How do they help her find her voice in writing?
  2. Discuss the title of the book.  Why do you think the author chose this title?
  3. Discuss the importance of family within this book.   How important is family to Jacqueline Woodson and to this collection of poems?
  4. Discuss the effect of the poetic format and writing style on the overall content of this book.  Did you enjoy the format?  Why or why not?
  5. Discuss the racism experienced by the family members within this book.  How do the characters within this book respond to racism at different historical points?
  6. There seems to be a great contrast between the north (Ohio and Brooklyn) and the south (where her grandparents are in South Carolina).  Compare and contrast the feelings and attributes ascribed to these places from the book.
  7. Woodson talks about finding a book filled with brown people at the library.  How do you think this has affected her and her passion for increasing the number of diverse books in the world?
  8. “Maybe there is something, after all, to the way some people want to remain – each to its own kind,  But in time maybe everything will fade to gray.”  What do you think Woodson means by this?
  9. What effect do you see being a Jehovah’s Witness had on Woodson?

Review by Veronica Chambers in the New York Times

Jacqueline Woodson’s Website

Interview with Jacqueline Woodson conducted by Terry Gross on NPR

milk and honey by Rupi Kaur ~ Book Review

Pages: 204

Published: November 4, 2014

Format:  Paperback Book

 

 

 

 

this is the journey of 

surviving through poetry 

this is the blood sweat tears 

of twenty-one years 

this is my heart 

in your hands 

this is 

the hurting 

the loving 

the breaking 

the healing 

– rupi kaur

What a lovely collection of poetry that contains so much depth, beauty, love, pain, insight, wisdom and kindness!  It was amazing to me how much emotion, feeling and wisdom could be contained in so few words.  There is so much empowerment contained within this collection:  of women, femininity, and race.  While reading this, I wanted to be absolutely alone with the book without fear of interruption, so I could fully focus, digest and enjoy these poems.  The poem above is featured on the back of the book and is a brief synopsis of the book.

The poetry in this collection is divided into 4 segments.  The first labelled “the hurting” touches on topics of rape, sexual abuse, and abusive parenting.  It describes feelings of emptiness and suppression, however, also the ability to transcend the hurt with kindness.  It describes the fractured relationship left as a result of abuse.  “The loving” portion is about hope, qualities of a lover, love making, women’s bodies and sex.  “The breaking” is about heartbreak, games young lovers play, the bitter aspects of relationships, and relationships that break you down or want you to be someone you aren’t.  Rupi Kaur speaks of intense extremes of feelings and emotions.  Finally, “the healing” is about loving yourself, the strength within oneself, being contented with being alone.  It is about loving one’s own female body in it’s most natural form and all of the way it functions.  It’s about the power of vulnerability, openness and kindness.  It’s about celebrating and supporting other women’s successes rather than their failures.  It is about celebrating feminine beauty in all its different colors, shapes and sizes.

Beautiful, kind, loving!  The sketches throughout this book are perfect and add to the poetry, almost seeming to be poetry in and of themselves.  I highly recommend this to every woman, especially the late teen and twenty-something set.  I recommend buying the actual book, to enjoy the words, the sketches and probable re-readings.

Rupi Kaur is a Canadian who has created a lot of attention for herself through the use of social media (#poetryisnotdead).  She was born in Punjab, India and moved to Canada at the age of 4.  Not speaking any English, she was inspired by her mother to draw and paint.  In 2014, Kaur self published milk and honey,  however it was so popular that a publishing company picked it up and republished it in 2015.  Kaur posted a picture on Instagram in March 2015 of herself in bed with a menstrual stain on her sweatpants as part of a project aimed at destigmatizing menstruation.  Instagram removed the photo and others in the series, which Kaur argued proved her point.  Instagram later restored the picture, saying it had been removed by mistake.

 

 

Rupi Kaur’s website