Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything -- until it wasn't anymore. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant -- a part of a future that belonged to them.
But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.
Like Louise Meriweather's Daddy Was a Number Runner and Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina, Jacqueline Woodson's Another Brooklyn heartbreakingly illuminates a formative time when childhood gives way to adulthood -- the promise and peril of growing up -- and exquisitely renders a powerful indelible, and fleeting friendship that united four young lives.
I'd read Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming and was interested in her first adult novel in years. In Another Brooklyn, Woodson tells the story of August, an African American anthropologist in her 30s who returns to Brooklyn after her father's death. She'd been distant from her younger brother and had lost touch with her childhood friends but this trip gives her the chance to reunite with them.
As August remembers what it was like to move from Tennessee to Brooklyn with her father and younger brother. She and her brother are constantly thinking of their mother, remembering her moments of disorientation and how frightening it had been for them when their mother continued conversations with their dead uncle. August tells us about her early days in Brooklyn, when they were confined to their small rental apartment and forbidden to leave the stoop, the sense of freedom as they were gradually given permission to walk to the corner of their street, to visit the local bodega, to become comfortable in their streets. There are stories of white flight, of the addicts and the drunks, of the dangers on the Brooklyn streets as well as turning on the hydrants and playing in the streets on hot summer days. Woodson tells us of the loss of inherited lands due to tax liens, of death during the Vietnam War and the pain and uncertainty that mental illness brings to a family.
August tells us about the friendship that develops with other eleven-year-old girls in their public school. August shares what it felt like to be an outsider and of the sudden warmth and glow of becoming part of their small clique of four, and of the things that filled their days and of the dangers that hid in shared apartments, of carrying razorblades to feel safe, of the burden of carrying their parents' dreams as their own.
Woodson's writing is lyrical. It reminds me of Sandra Cisternos' The House on Mango Street. In Another Brooklyn, stories of double Dutch and jacks, of ice-cream and games, of danger and loss, mental illness and pain, of growing up and of friendships, of blackouts, rioting, theft, and of the changing demographics of the neighborhood are all told in a straightforward and powerful way.
About the Author:
Jacqueline Woodson's awards include 3 Newbery Honors, a Coretta Scott King Award and 3 Coretta Scott King Honors, 2 National Book Awards, a Margaret A. Edwards Award and an ALAN Award -- both for Lifetime Achievement in YA Literature. She is the author of more than 2 dozen books for children and young adults and lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.