Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Published August 2016, Read November 2016
“I know now that what is tragic isn’t the moment. It is the memory.”
I am not sure I can offer a worthy summary of Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn.
It’s about black girlhood. It’s about Brooklyn. It’s about being alive in the seventies. It’s about August, Gigi, Angela, and Sylvia, and how their gender, bodies, and blackness crash together in a Brooklyn community. But it also only gives us a taste, just a handful of moments, to understand what it all means.
Falling somewhere in the realm between poetry and prose, Another Brooklyn reads slowly, but I do not mean that as a critique. One pauses and savors every perfectly crafted sentence, every purposefully chosen word. Every paragraph is pieced together with such devotion and care that one cannot help but savor Woodson’s words. The story itself is powerful enough to inspire the rave reviews from readers, critics, and even the National Book Award Foundation, but it is in the fine detailing of her prose that Woodson truly shines. One can tell she agonized over each word: its placement, meaning, and choice. Nothing within these pages is excess or unneeded.
I spent a single fall afternoon in Woodson’s Brooklyn. The book is brief, light in the hand, but powerful in its impact. It speaks to me on multiple levels: my own whiteness, my feminism, the rape and sexual culture that suffocates women, and the realities of girlhood. The author says she looked to her own teenage years for inspiration, “rediscovering…the slow-motion ferocity of the end of childhood” (p. 172).
This book, first and foremost, is about black girlhood. We outsiders to this world should pause and listen intently to the experience Woodson reveals. And she reveals it masterfully.