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“Brown Girl Dreaming” Is More Than Just A Book

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at GCU chapter.

People have always turned to books whenever they want to escape reality and live in a fantasy world, but books can do more than that. Books can help people understand different perspectives and allow them to reflect on and relate to an author’s words. It can give insight into someone else’s life, not just their creative imagination. 

For Jacqueline Woodson, her poetry book Brown Girl Dreaming is filled with meaningful poems describing moments of her childhood that have impacted her growing up. One of the poems titled Greenville, South Carolina, 1963, describes the town Woodson’s mother grew up in. For the duration of the book, Woodson reflects on how much her mother missed her hometown and the memories she has of it surrounded by her family. Woodson recalls a memory of herself, her mother, her sister, and her brother getting on a bus to visit her mother’s family home in Greenville.

In the poem, her mother reminds them that Greenville is not Ohio, where the family lived, and specific strict rules apply in Greenville as opposed to Ohio. Examples of this include not making eye contact, apologizing, answering with no sir or yes sir, and stepping off the curb for white people. Woodson mentions how her then 3-year-old brother had “eyes wide open to the world and his two-big ears already listening” and how her mother reassures him that they are “as good as anybody.” 

The theme presented throughout this book is how much the racial differences in the South impacted Woodson’s childhood. This shared experience is one of many, both in the past and present. Many people of color experience what is known as “the talk”. The “talk” is where parents teach kids of color how to behave, react, talk, and dress in a certain way to prevent any confrontations and danger that may come. While situations have improved and aren’t as extreme, as seen in the book, the past has not been forgotten or ignored. Kids today still get “the talk”, and the risk is still high. These days it is more heard regarding police brutality and how one must behave when approached by the police, which is different from the issues of the past. Today, the public has seen more in the media the injustices many people of color are experiencing. It’s brought on the topic of change. 

For example, the famous and longest-running TV drama Grey’s Anatomy, which is known for touching on important real-life topics, shows a clip of the character Dr. Miranda Bailey and her husband, Ben Warren, giving their son “the talk” and showing him what to do in certain situations, as well as letting him know why he needs to do it and why he can’t react the same as his white friends might. 

Brown Girl Dreaming has had an impact on many lives, specifically Woodson’s. When she wrote about how her younger brother’s eyes were wide open to the world, she told the reader how his innocence was changed. He had to realize how cruel the world could be. This is a compelling and sensitive lesson, but also an important one. It is beneficial for students to be exposed to these perspectives as presented in the poems, and to be able to analyze and create their own opinions on what they read and how they can or can’t relate. 

Books like Brown Girl Dreaming are essential in our society because they show readers a new perspective and provide a relatable story so audiences can feel heard and learn to listen.

Hi everyone! I’m Alejandra! I’m currently a third year college student at GCU and I’m a double major in Professional Writing and Marketing. I hope you enjoy my articles.