Award-winning Brooklyn author Jacqueline Woodson writes novel set in 1970s Brooklyn
Award-winning Brooklyn author Jacqueline Woodson, who has recently been named the national ambassador for young people’s literature, is well known for her commitment to writing children’s and young adult novels of the highest caliber. However, the National Book Award winner recently published her first book for adult readers in 20 years, titled “Another Brooklyn.”
Set in 1970s Brooklyn, its haunting narrative unfolds through the dream-like recollections of one woman, which slowly disclose the shared coming-of-age story of four girls, inseparably bound, who collectively imagine a brighter future beyond Bushwick. Through evocative vignettes, the novel strikes the persistent drumbeat of memory, building into a crescendo of emotions, once repressed, ultimately acknowledged.
“Everywhere we looked, we saw the people trying to dream themselves out,” August recalls as she looks back. “As though there was someplace other than this place. As though there was another Brooklyn.”
At 8, August moves to Brooklyn with her father and younger brother, leaving her mother — who has gone slowly mad since the death of her own brother in Vietnam — on the all-but- repossessed Tennessee farm. August imagines that her mother will reunite with them “tomorrow,” a sustaining belief that helps her adjust to a very different new life. From her third-floor apartment window, August notices three girls her age who seem inseparable, and yearns for their friendship. Not heeding her mother’s warning that she should never trust other women, August in fact jumps at the chance to turn this trio into a quartet of intimate girlfriends.
Like August, the others are talented, bright and full of spirit. Angela hopes to become a dancer and Gigi, with her exotic, slightly Asian looks, dreams of being an actress. Sylvia seems content to put aside her own creative aspiration to become the lawyer her father insists she be. August herself will one day leave Brooklyn for the Ivy League, becoming an anthropologist who studies the rituals of death and dying — an obsession that will color her memories as she looks back at these childhood years through the lens of distance and time.
As the four blossom from girls to young women, some endure the strictures of their parents’ love, others survive despite the absence of parental guidance. The streets they call home are inhabited by drug-addicted Vietnam veterans and store vendors that offer children money and food for “favors” — a place especially dangerous for young women coming into their own. But, they are also nurtured by religion and a vibrant sense of community. The girls’ once largely carefree life will change, however, as betrayal and a number of events sever the bonds they never thought could be severed.
“Jacqueline Woodson’s ‘Another Brooklyn’ is another kind of book, another kind of beautiful, lyrical, hallucinatory, heartbreaking and powerful novel,” said Edwidge Danticat, author of “Claire of the Sea Light.”
“Every gorgeous page leads to another revelation, another poignant event of memory. This is an incredible and memorable book.”
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