Jacqueline Woodson’s book Brown Girl Dreaming is an extraordinary memoir that encompasses the depth of our minds’ capabilities and releases it onto the page. The sincerity of her words empowers the reader to appreciate the curiosity of the world around and within themselves.
At the core of who we are; we are a creator. A genius that comes in brown skin, curly hair, and a brain as expansive and beautiful as a field of wildflowers. Our potential is ever flourishing as we too absorb our power from the sun. Our power is relinquished in an overflow of wanting to give to you. You are my friend and I offer these words that come from a source greater than “I” can define. Accept these words as you would a bouquet and let’s take a moment to listen to the silence. There we will find our composition for the story we can create together.
Let’s look together at Jacqueline Woodson’s memoir as she goes from her composition notebook to the 2014 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.
Woodson delves into the profound realizations of our collective ability to learn. She holds humility close to her heart as she expounds on the transformative process of reading. “Letters becoming words, words gathering meaning, becoming thoughts outside my head…” Yet, the question remains, what if we took our ability to read and intentionally used it to alter the reality of our perceived life?
Choosing words with Intention
Woodson shares that as she grew up, she witnessed the enticing rhetoric of activist Angela Davis. “She is not afraid, she says, to die for what she believes in but doesn’t plan to die without a fight.” If we think about our own personal educational history we have learned about individuals that stood in the pathway of their opposition. Neither fear nor doubt can survive long in a mind that has decided to do the right thing.
Woodson offers her internal personal reflection about listening to Angela Davis’s messages with her best friend Maria. “We are not afraid to die, Maria and I shout, fists high, for what we believe in. But both of us know– we’d rather keep believing and live.” This insight about wanting to believe and live is a tangible reality that can be created through the usage of words. The passion to write is a direct link to the imagination that can cultivate the story of standing up for others and continuing to walk peacefully on this earth.
Liberation through her Composition Notebook
The beauty of writing is that it continues as long as you have a blank piece of paper and something to write with. It’s a familiar feeling of gratitude that most writers have experienced through Woodson’s descriptions of receiving her first composition notebook. “And somehow, one day, it’s just there speckled black-and-white, the paper inside smelling like something I could fall right into, live the–inside those clean white pages.” Along with the desire to write is the excitement when others are willing to encourage our creative outlet. “You’re a writer, Ms. Vivo says, holding my poem out to me.”
Those three words mean everything when someone is willing to offer them to you. It is validation. It is the necessary motivation that will lead a writer to illuminate the minds of their fellow human beings. Movements are created first from thoughts about a better world and second by someone willing to write them down. Words are a declaration that the human dream can be astounding. The possibility does not cease and nor does the genius that resides within the mind of every child.
Brown Girl Dreaming
Who is this brown girl dreaming, my teacher wants to know.
Staring out the window so.
Head in hands and eyes–gone from here.
Where are you, dear?
Come back to the classroom, my pretty brown girl.
I fear you’re halfway around the world.
Where is that mind of yours now?”
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