Book Review: Brown Girl Dreaming and Loving vs. Virginia

Two books diverged from a single shelf, and happy I was to fall into both.  Jacqueline Woodson and Patricia Powell have taken their words and talent for writing verse to bring the world two beautifully written depictions of what it looked and felt like to grow up in the deep south during the civil rights movement.

brown girl dreaming

In Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson entices adolescents by taking them on her personal journey of growing up in South Carolina close to her grandparents, and then New York when her parents divorced.  As she travels between two homes, never truly feeling that one is “home.”  This describes her inner struggle as well, with a deep desire to become an author, but the outside world seems to keep telling her she’s not good enough.  That there simply is not a future in literature.  Yet, writing helps Jacqueline find herself, develop an identity, and so she continues despite the voices telling her otherwise.  As all human stories go, her’s has many layers.  Not only is the reader thrust into a historical education of the time period, but also Woodson’s personal dreams despite her struggles in school and to find a place in the world amidst one that did not want her to exist.

 

I do not know if these hands will become–

Malcolm’s–raised and fisted

or Martin’s–open and asking,

or James’s–curled around a pen.

I do not know if these hands will be

Rosa’s

or Ruby’s

gently gloved

and fiercely folded

calmly in a lap,

on a desk,

around a book,

ready

to change the world…

–excerpt from Brown Girl Dreaming

 

Loving vs. Virigina, by Patricia Hruby Powell, takes the reader on an entirely different journey.  Richard Loving and Mildred (Millie) Jeter meet during a summer game of ball where Richard catches Millie’s hit, sending her into a fiery frenzy.  He wasn’t even playing the game! From that moment on an unlikely (and illegal) love would form between between a black female and white male. The town, ruled by Sheriff Brooks, was determined to make their life a living hell.  From harassment on back roads to pulling the couple out of their bed in the middle of the night to arrests, Sheriff Brooks never gave the couple a break.  In fact he does the exact opposite.  He goes out of his way to bring more trouble into their lives.

And he succeeds.

As their love deepens, Mildred finds herself pregnant while in high school.  She withholds the information from Richard for as long as possible, and when she finally tells him their relationship crumbles.  She births the baby without him by her side but in the months following they reunite.  Recognizing how deeply their devotion goes for each other and their family, they marry and quickly find themselves expecting their second child.  Millie is jailed for the criminal offense of marrying a white man, and that is where their true struggle to keep their family together begins.

And then I go home

to my baby

and little Sidney.

You’d think that

they’d want

us to be married,

what with a child and all.

 

But it’s our beautiful brown baby

that is the problem.

This perfect baby is the result

of race mixing.

This child is the very reason

they don’t want us to be married.

  • excerpt from Loving vs. Virginia

 

This book, scattered with photographs, quotes, explanations of events, and beautiful illustrations, takes its reader on the tumultuous journey of the landmark Supreme Court case, Loving vs. Virginia. It seamlessly combines real events and poetry in a way that will forever change the reader’s heart.


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