When August returns to Brooklyn after the death of her father, she is catapulted back in time to her childhood and it is these memories which fuel Jacqueline Woodson’s novel Another Brooklyn.
Twenty years have passed since my childhood. This morning, we buried my father. My brother and I stood shoulder to shoulder at the grave-site, willows weeping down around us, nearly bare-branched against the snow.
Riding the subway, she spots an old friend, Sylvia, and it reminds her of when they (along with Gigi and Angela) “were four girls together, amazingly beautiful and terrifyingly alone.”
Woodson’s novel is an elliptical, poetic examination of what it is to be a young, black woman growing up in the 70s. I also came of age in the 70s, and I suppose in that regard I have something in common with August. Not only does August find herself in an unfamiliar world, one that she watches from a window for the first few months she lives there, but she is also grappling with a missing mother, the shifting landscape of friendships, poverty, and her own growing awareness of the power of her body.
But as she says “This is memory.”
Another Brooklyn isn’t really a novel with a plot. That doesn’t mean that nothing happens. It’s just that the story unfurls like a long, dreamy reminiscence. August remembers her childhood in Tennessee; she remembers the trio of girls she befriends before they were hers.
They called to each other across the yard. They linked arms and laughed. They curled into each other to whisper when the teacher’s back was turned. Before I knew their names, I knew the tiny bones at the back of their necks, the tender curve of their hairlines.
She remembers the “kind of poverty we lived in.” She remembers the music they listened to, the summer the lights went out in New York and Jerome, the boy who, when she was nine “Looked up at my window and winked at me from where he and his friends were playing in the streets.”
This is a beautiful coming-of-age novel, that is very specific but feels universal.