“Who hasn’t walked through a life of small tragedies? Sister Sonja often asked me, as though to understand the depth and breadth of human suffering would be enough to pull me outside of my own.“
Jacqueline Woodson is indisputably gifted. Her writing reads more like poetry than prose, floats in your mind like a song. In “Another Brooklyn”, her first book targeted specifically for adults, Woodson demonstrates what many of us already knew – that she is a masterful storyteller, able to shape memories and emotions for an audience of all ages.
“Another Brooklyn” tells the story of a group of inseparable girlfriends growing up in Brooklyn in the 1970s. Through the remembrances of August, we learn about the various iterations of poverty and the complexities of family life for these four young girls coming of age in a time and place of turbulence.
“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.”
The girls are impossibly close, with a level of empathy and compassion for one another that is nearly unearthly. Their friendship is challenged by some of their parents, blithely tolerated by others. August’s own mother, who is ever-present and ever-absent in her story, would have particularly objected to the intertwinedness of the group had she been around to know about it.
“My mother had not believed in friendships among women. She said women weren’t to be trusted. Keep your arm out, she said. And keep women a whole other hand away from the farthest tips of your fingernails. She told me to keep my nails long.”
August refuses to keep these girls at bay, and for many years they are like separate limbs of the same body. But the hardness of their surroundings, the transformations of becoming adults, and the difficulties of being young women eventually prove too strong for their bond. Each girl has her own tragedies and traumas which send her splintering off. As an adult, August still struggles with her childhood traumas and the mixed emotions of this formative quartet. Her struggles and her memories swirl to build this beautiful, lyrical story.
“Another Brooklyn” is a rather small book, one that will take only a few hours to read, but one which will likely reverberate in your heart and thoughts for much much longer. Jacqueline Woodson is an absolute gift to the world of books and bookworms.