It feels like forever since I've seen you! I am looking forward to getting together this Friday evening at my house to discuss Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. You can find suggested discussion questions below.
Drop us a line and let us know if we can hope to see you!
1. Did you like this book?
2. Didn't you want to bookmark the family tree or print it out to reference it as you read?
3. What did you make of the poetic structure?
4. Did you notice "the talk" early on -- that "you will face this in your life someday...a moment when you walk into a room and no one there is like you" (14).
5. What makes this YA as opposed to A?
6. What do you make of the diversity of awards this book has won -- Newbery Honor Book, National Book Award Winner, Coretta Scott King Award?
7. How do you see Jacqueline emerging as a writer as she tells her tale? (i.e. hair night -- allowing herself to be taken by her sister's reading (83-5); grown folks stories -- whispering back the stories the stories she hears on the porch to her siblings (98-9); Cora's stories (114-5); telling her grandfather stories when he is sick (134)
8. How does she integrate the theme of dreaming with her own dreams? (Hughes poem at the start, "lullaby" (58), reprise of that (99))
9. Why does she choose to repeat certain titles? (how to listen, halfway home, writing, after greenville)
10. Who else has dreams? (Her mother tall and proud, marching, NYC; Jesse Jackson (111))
11. When is she birthed as a writer? (the birth of a writer 154-5, then onto 156, and her dream of taking flight, thinking about stories in her head 165-6)
12. Are you surprised that she had difficulty with reading? (169)
13. How does the story shift in how it describes in-groups and out-groups? (North vs. South; Black vs. White; kids from here in NYC or Greenville and kids who are not; kids who are smart (like sister Del) and kids who learn differently (Jacqueline, 221-2); or who can listen to black vs. white music 262-3)
14. She is African-American and refers to herself as "black" in the book. Why then title it "brown" girl dreaming?
15. What do you make of her reaction to the library book? -- "the picture book filled with brown people, more brown people than I'd ever seen in a book before...If someone had taken that book out of my hand said, You're too old for this, maybe I'd never have believed that someone who looked like me could be in the pages of the book that someone who looked like me had a story" (228)
16. Is that really the history of Wall Street? 297-8 (It's complicated, and parts of early history are disputed, but it definitely was the location of a slave market from 1711-1762. And that really is the history of Brooklyn.)
17. Did you have a favorite part? Mine might have been "the revolution" 308-9 describing history as a carousel that repeats itself and how for a short time we get a turn to ride.
18. Did you have a teacher who believed in your dream?
19. Why does a writer write? ("On paper, things can live forever. On paper, a butterfly never dies." 249)
It was so nice to see so many of you last night -- for a delicious cocktail hour followed by cozy fireside chat to discuss Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. I think the consensus is that we all really enjoyed the writing...and the story too, even as it gently alluded to hard times and difficult issues.
I wanted to mention another book I read this week. Reading with Patrick is a memoir by Michelle Kuo who goes to the Arkansas Delta with Teach for America after graduating from Harvard. She struggles to find material that reaches her students...until she offers them young adult literature. Her students connect to the authors she introduces, including...Jacqueline Woodson! I was so pleased to see her name in print during a month when we were discussing her book! I have written more about Kuo's book here on my blog.
For December we are going to have a holiday party and BOOK SWAP! Please browse your own shelves for a book you'd like to pass on. No restrictions except...maybe make sure it's in English? :) Then bring your UNWRAPPED book to the party and enjoy seeing what others have been reading!
In January we will reconvene for discussion of Trevor Noah's Born a Crime.
The Tipsy Mamas' Book Club is co-hosted by Corinne Foster and myself, though the spirit of our discussions is flavored by many readers.