Author 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 leader 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.
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,
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
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;
of Smiths, Cooks, Jones, Baileys, and Woodsons
But still the disconnect.
Still the lines drawn.
january 9, 2015
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.
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
a country still caught
between Black, White,
Latino, Nigerian, Muslim,
What have you.
How will we build the
–signed, white woman listening
* * *
For Lawrence’s most recent prior post at Bacon, please click here (Review of The Luminaries).