brown girl dreaming

brown girl dreaming
Written by Jacqueline Woodson

Publisher’s Summary:
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

Primary Source Pairing:
From the very beginning to the very end, this book is full of primary source analysis opportunities. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington, Malcolm X in Harlem, Rosa Parks in Montgomery, James Baldwin with an essay-writing pen, and Ruby Bridges in an all-white school are all mentioned in the second poem in the book titled “second daughter’s second day on earth.” As author Jacqueline Woods tells her story it is also a story of the history and culture of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Invite students to take notes as they read of topics about which they would like to learn more. Have students share primary sources with each other to create a visual collection of the experiences Woodson writes of in her book.

For this primary source pairing, turn to the book itself and the family tree and photographs Woodson has included. The family trees are at the beginning and collections of family photographs are at the end. Above is the photo montage of Jacqueline Woodson as a child. Invite students to make connections with the images included and the experiences Woodson writes about.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What’s happening in the image?
  • Connect a poem written by Woodson in brown girl dreaming to a photograph. Why did you make this connection? Cite visual and textual evidence.

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
“Jacqueline as a Child” Photo Montage: