‘Another Brooklyn’ by Jacqueline Woodson – A Fictional Memoir of Her Early Teens in Brooklyn

 

‘Another Brooklyn’ by Jacqueline Woodson (2016) – 192 pages

 

In the deep heat of summer, we watched as kids circled around the heroin addicts, taking bets on whether or not they’d fall over.”

Jacqueline Woodson has written more than two dozen books for young adults, middle graders, and children. Thus she knows her way around a story. ‘Another Brooklyn’ is one of only three novels she has written for adults. In ‘Another Brooklyn’, Woodson captures Brooklyn in the early 1970s through the eyes of the young teenage girl August (Auggie), both the good stuff and the bad stuff. Yes, she does not avoid the bad stuff, and there is plenty of bad stuff going on in Brooklyn at that time.

Auggie is now an adult, and she remembers the time when she was 11 and when her father, her brother, and herself moved to Brooklyn from SweetGrove, Tennessee. Her mother had started hearing voices after she found out that her brother Clyde had been killed in Vietnam. Then her mother “walked into water and kept on walking”. Auggie’s own upright father also fought in Vietnam and returned home with only eight fingers.

The three move into a Brooklyn apartment. On the floor below lives a prostitute with two children until her children were taken away from her by the authorities.

We were not poor, but we lived on the edge of poverty.”

Auggie paints a prose picture of the Brooklyn as she saw and lived in then. In Brooklyn, as black people are arriving, white people are leaving.

Without her mother, the only thing that makes life tolerable for the young Auggie is the clique of young friends she makes at school.

Sylvia, Angela, Gigi, August. We were four girls together, amazingly beautiful and terrifyingly alone.”

Each of the girls tells the stories of her own life. Some of the stories are humiliating, some are gruesome. By each girl telling her own story, the four girls form a close bond.

When we had finally become friends, when the four of us trusted each other enough to let the world surrounding us into our words, we whispered secrets, pressed side by side by side or sitting cross-legged in our newly tight circle. We opened our mouths and let the stories that had burned nearly to ash in our bellies finally live outside us.”

In striving to capture this Brooklyn from an earlier time, Jacqueline Woodson uses a language style which is as close to poetry as it is to prose.

I have found that when writers who usually write children’s books turn to adult fiction, they often come up with a story that is vivid and easy to follow. This is true of ‘Another Brooklyn’.

 

Grade:   A-

 

 

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