Another Brooklyn

Jacqueline Woodson

I watched my brother watch the world, his sharp, too-serious brow furrowing down in both angst and wonder. Everywhere we looked, we saw the people trying to dream themselves out. As though there was someplace other than this place. As though there was another Brooklyn.

Beautiful, poetic novel built around memories of growing up in Bushwick in the 1970s. August returns to NYC as an adult, and a chance meeting on the subway brings back her adolescent years when she first arrived with her father and brother from Tennessee. “This is memory,” she intones repeatedly as she remembers their father being too nervous to let them out on their own, so they viewed their neighborhood held captive through the windows, until these barriers became a more dangerous threat than the streets. Watching three girls in the neighborhood, she admired them from afar until they pulled her into their circle. She recalls the white families leaving, drug abuse escalating, wounded soldiers from the Vietnam War, and the soldiers who didn’t return. But also dance parties and spraying fire hydrants and the special intimacy between adolescent girls.

I wasn’t very familiar with Jacqueline Woodson’s work — she is very well-published in the young adult fiction genre and I only delve there sporadically — but I had her memoir Brown Girl Dreaming on my radar for a while. I was kind of blown away how much I loved this book, and it’s an especially great pleasure to finally get around to reading a writer with a large oeuvre to dig into.

A few days after finishing this book I happened to check the events page at the Brooklyn Public Library and the featured event was a reading with Woodson. She read both from Another Brooklyn and her memoir in verse Brown Girl Dreaming, giving some insight in how this novel pulls from her own experiences. She also mentioned how to her the main difference between YA fiction and adult fiction being the perspective they are written from, so anyone who remembers what it’s like to be a kid can enjoy YA novels — a good nudge for me to delve more often in the genre.

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