Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming

by Jacqueline Woodson

Audiobook(CD - Unabridged)

$30.00 View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, July 24


Jacqueline Woodson, one of today's finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.
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.
Praise for Jacqueline Woodson:
Ms. Woodson writes with a sure understanding of the thoughts of young people, offering a poetic, eloquent narrative that is not simply a story . . . but a mature exploration of grown-up issues and self-discovery.”—The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101926413
Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/03/2015
Edition description: Unabridged
Pages: 4
Sales rank: 779,717
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Jacqueline Woodson ( is the winner of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults, the recipient of three Newbery Honors for After Tupac and D Foster, Feathers and Show Way, and a two-time finalist for the National Book Award for Locomotion and Hush. Other awards include the Coretta Scott King Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Miracle's Boys. Her most recent books are her novel Beneath a Meth Moon and her picture books Each Kindness and This Is the Rope. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

Read an Excerpt

february 12, 1963

I am born on a Tuesday at the University Hospital
Columbus, Ohio
a country caught

between Black and White.

I am born not long from the time or far from the place where my great, great grandparents worked the deep rich land unfree dawn till dusk unpaid drank cool water from scooped out gourds looked up and followed the sky’s mirrored constellation to freedom.

I am born as the south explodes,
too many people too many years enslaved then emancipated but not free, the people who look like me keep fighting and marching and getting killed so that today—
February 12, 1963
and every day from this moment on,
brown children, like me, can grow up free. Can grow up learning and voting and walking and riding wherever we want.

I am born in Ohio but the stories of South Carolina already run like rivers through my veins.

second daughter’s second day on earth 
My birth certificate says: Female Negro 
Mother: Mary Anne Irby, 22, Negro 
Father: Jack Austin Woodson, 25, Negro
In Birmingham, Alabama, Martin Luther King Jr. 
is planning a march on Washington, where 
John F. Kennedy is president. 
In Harlem, Malcolm X is standing on a soapbox 
talking about a revolution. 
Outside the window of University Hospital, 
snow is slowly falling. So much already 
covers this vast Ohio ground. 
In Montgomery, only seven years have passed 
since Rosa Parks refused 
to give up 
her seat on a city bus. 
I am born brown-skinned, black-haired 
and wide-eyed. 
I am born Negro here and Colored there 
and somewhere else, 
the Freedom Singers have linked arms, 
their protests rising into song: 
Deep in my heart, I do believe 
that we shall overcome someday. 
and somewhere else, James Baldwin 
is writing about injustice, each novel, 
each essay, changing the world. 
I do not yet know who I’ll be 
what I’ll say 
how I’ll say it . . . 
Not even three years have passed since a brown girl 
named Ruby Bridges 
walked into an all-white school. 
Armed guards surrounded her while hundreds 
of white people spat and called her names. 
She was six years old. 
I do not know if I’ll be strong like Ruby. 
I do not know what the world will look like 
when I am finally able to walk, speak, write . . . 
Another Buckeye! 
the nurse says to my mother. 
Already, I am being named for this place. 
Ohio. The Buckeye State. 
My fingers curl into fists, automatically 
This is the way, my mother said, 
of every baby’s hand. 
I do not know if these hands will become 
Malcolm’s—raised and fisted 
or Martin’s—open and asking 
or James’s—curled around a pen. 
I do not know if these hands will be 
or Ruby’s 
gently gloved 
and fiercely folded 
calmly in a lap, 
on a desk, 
around a book, 
to change the world . . .
it’ll be scary sometimes 
My great-great-grandfather on my father’s side 
was born free in Ohio, 
Built his home and farmed his land, 
then dug for coal when the farming 
wasn’t enough. Fought hard 
in the war. His name in stone now 
on the Civil War Memorial: 
William J. Woodson 
United States Colored Troops, 
Union, Company B 5th Regt. 
A long time dead but living still 
among the other soldiers 
on that monument in Washington, D.C. 
His son was sent to Nelsonville 
lived with an aunt 
William Woodson 
the only brown boy in an all-white school. 
You’ll face this in your life someday, 
my mother will tell us 
over and over again. 
A moment when you walk into a room and 
no one there is like you. 
It’ll be scary sometimes. But think of William Woodson 
and you’ll be all right.
the beginning 
I cannot write a word yet but at three, 
I now know the letter 
love the way it curves into a hook 
that I carefully top with a straight hat 
the way my sister has taught me to do. Love 
the sound of the letter and the promise 
that one day this will be connected to a full name, 
my own 
that I will be able to write 
by myself. 
Without my sister’s hand over mine, 
making it do what I cannot yet do. 
How amazing these words are that slowly come to me. 
How wonderfully on and on they go. 
Will the words end, I ask 
whenever I remember to. 
Nope, my sister says, all of five years old now, 
and promising me 
hair night 
Saturday night smells of biscuits and burning hair. 
Supper done and my grandmother has transformed 
the kitchen into a beauty shop. Laid across the table 
is the hot comb, Dixie Peach hair grease, 
horsehair brush, parting stick 
and one girl at a time. 
Jackie first, my sister says, 
our freshly washed hair damp 
and spiraling over toweled shoulders 
and pale cotton nightgowns. 
She opens her book to the marked page, 
curls up in a chair pulled close 
to the wood-burning stove, bowl of peanuts in her lap. 
The words 
in her books are so small, I have to squint 
to see the letters. Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates. 
The House at Pooh Corner. Swiss Family Robinson. 
Thick books 
dog-eared from the handing down from neighbor 
to neighbor. My sister handles them gently, 
marks the pages with torn brown pieces 
of paper bag, wipes her hands before going 
beyond the hardbound covers. 
Read to me, I say, my eyes and scalp already stinging 
from the tug of the brush through my hair. 
And while my grandmother sets the hot comb 
on the flame, heats it just enough to pull 
my tight curls straighter, my sister’s voice 
wafts over the kitchen, 
past the smell of hair and oil and flame, settles 
like a hand on my shoulder and holds me there. 
I want silver skates like Hans’s, a place 
on a desert island. I have never seen the ocean 
but this, too, I can imagine—blue water pouring 
over red dirt. 
As my sister reads, the pictures begin forming 
as though someone has turned on a television, 
lowered the sound, 
pulled it up close. 
Grainy black-and-white pictures come slowly at me 
Deep. Infinite. Remembered 
On a bright December morning long ago . . . 
My sister’s clear soft voice opens up the world to me. 
I lean in 
so hungry for it. 
Hold still now, my grandmother warns. 
So I sit on my hands to keep my mind 
off my hurting head, and my whole body still. 
But the rest of me is already leaving, 
the rest of me is already gone.
the butterfly poems 
No one believes me when I tell them 
I am writing a book about butterflies, 
even though they see me with the Childcraft encyclopedia 
heavy on my lap opened to the pages where 
the monarch, painted lady, giant swallowtail and 
queen butterflies live. Even one called a buckeye. 
When I write the first words 
Wings of a butterfly whisper . . . 
no one believes a whole book could ever come 
from something as simple as 
butterflies that don’t even, my brother says, 
live that long. 
But on paper, things can live forever. 
On paper, a butterfly 
never dies.

Table of Contents

Family Tree 8

Part I I Am Born 13

Part II The Stories of South Carolina Run Like Rivers 59

Part III Followed the Sky's Mirrored Constellation to Freedom 171

Part IV Deep in my Heart, I D Believe 249

Part V Ready to Change the World 345

Author's Note 391

Thankfuls 395

Family Photos 398

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Brown Girl Dreaming 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
MrsJamesReadingLangArts More than 1 year ago
Can I give this more than 5 stars? I fell in love with this book. I teach 8th grade at an all girls' public school and I cannot wait to order 115 copies.  This is a book that every brown girl should read.  You will LOVE this book.  It' inspired me as a woman, teacher and brown girl that's all grown up now.  
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
It’s like a soft blanket, the voice of Morgan Freeman reading out loud to me, the purring of a kitten, Woodson words were warm and heartfelt as I read Brown Girl Dreaming, not wanting to put the book down. The words just flowing along like a babbling brook even though the text itself is not tranquil, it is the way the author strings the words together that brought harmony to its composition. Written in verse, Jacqueline tells her families story. Her father is content and determined to maintain his Northern upbringing while her mother loves the South. There is conflict among the parents but in the end, mother returns to her childhood home with the children. The South, the home is surrounded with love, laughter, restrictions and family. Shared with their grandparents, the privilege of massaging grandmother’s feet after she returns from daywork, put smiles on my face. The children’s anticipation of her stories, the author created this beautiful picture of this loving exchange between the generations. Mother wants to create her own home and heads North, the children staying with the grandparents where they influence the children more as the South engrains more into their minds. Jacqueline honesty and the ability to see the world through her eyes has me laughing and smiling as she sees and says things firsthand. It’s a story only Jacqueline can tell, for if anyone else were to tell the same story, it would not have the same effect. It’s a fantastic book, definitely worth reading once, twice or many times. “Our mama shushes us, says, It’s too late for presents and the like. But we want presents and the like. “ (their Uncle Robert came to see them) “And when we are called by our names my grandmother makes them all one HopeDellJackie but my grandfather takes his own sweet time, saying each as if he has all day long or a whole lifetime.”
Brunette_Librarian More than 1 year ago
      Telling the story of Jacqueline Woodson’s childhood, beginning in Ohio, then living in the South in the middle of the Civil Rights movement and ultimately ending up in New York City, the city of dreams and light. Beautifully told in verse, Woodson’s story shares their triumphs of life and love of family. It’s really a love letter to her family, whether it be good or bad, and a snapshot of her childhood life.             Woodson doesn’t hold any punches in her writings. She discusses without sugarcoating her religious upbringing in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, her absentee father, her unwed mother and the surprise of a younger half white sibling and what his arrival meant to her family. Jackie’s time in the South is marked by sit-ins, black’s only restrooms, and the trying times her family endures when fighting for their own rights in this controversial period of American history.             Gorgeously written, Woodson’s story speaks to the human experience. Covering such taboo topics as religion, race, poverty, education, incarceration, death, sickness, unplanned pregnancies, learning disabilities, absentee parents and growing up. This story is so much more than a coming of age novel, it’s a historical document testifying to our past and giving us hope for our future.
Matilda-was-taken More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up because it met a reading challenge category and I glanced at the first page, curious but not ready to read it since I was already reading another book, and suddenly I'd read the entire book. Beautiful, heartbreaking, inspiring, family, friendship, love, child-curiosity... a memoir written in free verse that moves you through Jaqueline's life filling you with every emotion. The second I finished reading it I turned back to the first page wanting to read it again to not miss a single beautiful word.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Beautifully written with simple, passionate depth in every story.
Anonymous 10 months ago
This book is great in my opinion because of the great story line and message it gave to the reader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book so much
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked this better than Another Brooklyn, but I also liked having the knowledge of that book when reading this one. I'm eager to discuss it with the Book Love Summer Book Club. There are a lot of beautiful and heartbreaking poems here. It was also really nice to have the knowledge I gained from hearing Woodson speak at NCTE this year. One of the things she talked about was understanding the culture of the things you read-- listening to the music and looking up the unfamiliar plants or technology or what-have-you. To help really immerse yourself in what you're learning about.
smg5775 More than 1 year ago
Jacqueline's early childhood told in verse form. Each poem is a vignette is a memory of someone or her as see leaves Greenville and Ohio and moves to New York City. It tells of the changes to her and her family. I enjoyed it. I felt I knew these people.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful and powerful and heartfelt. This book is just incredible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Totes should read it i am9 i reckmond this book to any ont E. Totes by call me boy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved everything about this book. The poems cover a wide array of emotions. The historical context adds some richness as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
H t
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A emotional amazing book. You read with your eyes but some how this book finds its way to your heart. You will not put down this book once you pick it up. Nothing is as powerful as a book can make you feel, and in that case this is one of the most powerful books ever. For all ages. A laugh cry book. Out of my Mind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is great if our dedicated i presonally loved the entire thing you shod read this book if your up for some tears or should i say alot
LynnLD More than 1 year ago
Brown Girl Dreaming is Jacqueline Woodson’s autobiography and she tells it in a poetic prose and free-verse style. I read it in a couple of sittings and could not put it down until I got the whole story. She shares her rich legacy and her life which started in Ohio, moved to the sunny south landscape of South Carolina and later into New York’s Brooklyn. She acknowledges that her timely birth in 1963 put her in the midst of many historic events that affected our country and consequently, her life. She finds her voice through writing as she witnesses the loss of loved ones; separation of parents and moving from state to state. For lovers of Woodson’s works, this book offers great insight into what shaped this prolific writer, whose books span across several genres.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fascinating life, told in verse. I would love to use this as a read aloud for my students.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book and the poems within had me go through a myriad of emotions. I laughed, cried, I was hopeful and the end, I wanted more.
MaryCL More than 1 year ago
This book is simply exquisite!  I've read many books that have won awards and have scratched my head and wondered "why?. This book deserves every literary award there is.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is such a good book.i loved it it is such a embracing really is such a open poetry book.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Plumberswife More than 1 year ago
I just enjoyed this book! Niclely written, really put me right within the pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was not was I expected. However, I think this would be excellent for a young reader. Overall I greatly enjoyed her story and way of writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I believe this book is more for teens than anyone under the age of 12. I had to read this for school and stopped reading it because there were things in this book that I did not feel comfortable reading. A girl was being raped and they talked about sex.
Sh1aol More than 1 year ago
I struggled to finish this book! Can't imagine why it would appeal to the age group it was intended for. I finished reading it only because of book club!