Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

Guest Post: Lawrence Blank-Cook on Brown Girl Dreaming

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9k=-2Author Jacqueline Woodson won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2014 for Brown Girl Dreaming, a memoir in verse about growing up African American in the 1960s and 70s in South Carolina and New York.  If you have a kid in school right now, you’ve probably heard about Brown Girl Dreaming or had a book by Woodson come home at some point along the way.  Woodson is an award-winning author to say the least:  three Newberry honors, the Margaret A. Edwards lifetime achievement award for Young Adult writing, the Coretta Scott King Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and nominations for the National Book Award for two other novels.

Lawrence Cook, National Director of Technology for Deloitte (and my dear friend and neighbor), cares deeply about the issues of inclusion and diversity in our community.  She serves as the Inclusion Lawrence Blank-Cook of Deloitteleader in the Hermitage office of Deloitte, helped launch ALPFA (Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting) Nashville, and has twice chaired the Hermitage Women’s Initiative Network.  She is a past president of BOOK ‘EM! and has taught Sunday School for over fifteen years.  This is just a sampling of how she spends her time, but you get the idea:  Lawrence doesn’t sit back and let others do the hard work.

She takes Bacon into new territory today by responding to Brown Girl Dreaming in verse.  This is a woman who knows how to take a chance.  Thank you, Lawrence!  I love it.

Read to the end of her poem for a chill.

From Lawrence:

I asked, “Jennifer, how do you feel

about using the author’s writing style?”

Her warm reply seals the deal.

 

december 24, 2014

I wrapped a book for my daughter tonight,

One of the last presents to put under the tree.

It won the National Book Award.

Hope that she hasn’t read it already.

 

january 5, 2015

“Mom, let me finish my book.

I’ll help with clean up instead.”

Later, doing the dishes after dinner,

“Brown Girl Dreaming,

You need to read it.”

 

january 7, 2015

As I settle in the chair to read….

“february 12, 1963

 

I was born on a Tuesday at University Hospital,

Columbus, Ohio.

USA –

a country caught

 

between Black and White.”

-Jaqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming

 

january 8, 2015

The cadence of Woodson’s narrative feels like

a familiar rap song from my youth.

 

Born in Ohio, mother drawn back

to her South Carolina roots.

Leaving her husband is nothing

compared to the thought

of raising her children

so far from home.

 

The land and people

from her past are home.

This is where she wants

to raise her babies.

But the future here

is fragile.

 

Growing up with black skin

in a world where

slavery feels like

yesterday to some folks…

(But not all).

 

White world and black world

still sorting it out.

Dr. King, Malcom X, marching,

Civil Rights, lunch counters, praying.

Lots of praying and church.

 

The people may have changed;

new generations

of Smiths, Cooks, Jones, Baileys, and Woodsons

But still the disconnect.

Still the lines drawn.

 

january 9, 2015

“No returns.

When my mother comes home

from the hospital with me,

My older brother takes one look….

‘Take her back. We already have one of those.’

Already three years old and still doesn’t understand.”

 

Siblings. When you are a child

Life is about interactions

With your brothers and sisters

Cousins and neighbors.

Adults must be obeyed.

But it’s the lessons

From your friends that mean the most.

 

Coming of age in South Carolina.

Church, school, God.

God’s work. Rare free time

For bike riding.

 

Then it’s New York to join

Mom where she has a new job.

A new baby. And making new friends

Learning new lessons from someone

Who also knows difference.

Who understands and yet doesn’t.

Shared otherness.

 

february 12, 2015

Email to Jennifer: Brown Girl Dreaming, I want to review it for Bacon.

Has anyone else claimed it?

 

march 12, 2015

Talked to a stranger on a flight from Atlanta.

I rarely talk to strangers on planes.

This woman seemed nervous.

She is coming to Nashville for an interview

And is hoping for a change – for herself

And her family. A new beginning.

As we talk, I bring up the book.

We talk about race and childhood.

The conversation reminds me of the

Day that I learned about difference.

I was in second grade. I was kind to a

Black boy. My white classmates

Didn’t think it was right for me to help him

When he has smashed his finger in the door.

I remember the blood on his hands.

And the hate in the voice that said

hurtful things to me.

I remember being glad that he was

Already in the nurse’s office.

 

april 1, 2015

We are still on a journey this Thursday in

Nashville, Tennessee

USA –

a country still caught

between Black, White,

Latino, Nigerian, Muslim,

What have you.

Difference. Sameness.

How will we build the

Future together?

 

–signed, white woman listening

 

*     *     *

For Lawrence’s most recent prior post at Bacon, please click here (Review of The Luminaries).

21 Comments

  1. Spectacular, Lawrence! And timely.

    • The timing was not planned, of course, but the resonance with Baltimore cannot be ignored. Listening is the first and greatest virtue. I know Lawrence is grateful for your kind comment, Carolyn! xo

  2. I’m so glad to know you Lawrence AND Jennifer. Thanks for a great breakfast.

  3. I love starting my day with big thoughts along with my usual coffee. Thanks, Lawrence! Can’t wait to read this book!

  4. Brown Girl Dreaming just raced to the top of the Summer Reading list. Thank you Lawrence.

  5. Simply fantastic!

  6. Truly great. Thank you, Lawrence. Thank you, Jennifer.

  7. Lawrence, you always have great insight! Thank you for sharing with us all!

  8. Simply mesmerizing. Thank you Lawrence and Jennifer.

  9. To the white woman listening- this is more than insight. You simply get it. And I am not surprised. You have always demonstrated a sensitivity to and an appreciation for difference. You walk the walk.

  10. Well done Lawrence! Brown Girl Dreaming was given to me by a friend and I devoured it quickly and reread many parts before handing it over to my mother in law. What a joy to return to this book with your beautiful prose this morning. Thank you!

  11. Beautiful! Thank you Lawrence. It is one of my favorite books of the past year!

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