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Amazon Book Review Exclusive: Jacqueline Woodson

AnotherBrooklyn200Much has been written about the city of Brooklyn but the pride-of-place that comes across in Jacqueline Woodson's novel feels like she's sharing a secret of the heart.  Another Brooklyn is the story of a young girl coming of age in 1970s Brooklyn who becomes "always and all ways" friends with three others until the lives of this tightly knit quartet begin to take different turns. Woodson is able to convey so much with so little in her writing—her words and sentences are beautifully crafted, infusing powerful emotion and understanding in a single line that still feels effortless and light.

Throughout the novel there are historical and cultural references that those of us from that era will remember, but Another Brooklyn takes those touchstones and puts them in the context of someone growing up female, beautiful, and black, in a city that is changing before their eyes.

 Below, in a piece written exclusively for the Amazon Book Review, Jacqueline Woodson talks about writing Another Brooklyn, the memories that went into it and the white space within the writing that let's the story settle in and take hold...

**Another Brooklyn is our editors' spotlight pick for the Best Books of August


Neighborhoods change.  In the seventies, the city of New York planted saplings along the Brooklyn block I lived on.  Inside the houses on that block were families new to Brooklyn and trying to find their way.  The neighborhood, like the children who played on its streets, grew up.  The trees got tall and wide, shading the once hot city street.  The street games of skelley, hopscotch, double-Dutch and stickball were replaced by boom boxes and dancing teenagers.  Some people moved away.  Many stayed and began to grow old.  Some people came back.  This was MY Brooklyn.  Bushwick – a neighborhood settled by the Dutch in 1638 and at the time known as Boswijck – little town in the woods.  More than 300 years later, it became home to me.

Bushwick is a major character in my novel, Another Brooklyn.  I wanted to hold on to what I remembered of my childhood neighborhood.  I wanted the streets, the people, the energy of that place in the 1970s to remain somewhere.

Another Brooklyn is a novel but it is also a love letter to neighborhood that launched me into the world.  Long before I knew I'd ever be a published writer, I knew I wanted write.  I wanted to tell stories that people would read one day and connect to.  I wanted to put the people I loved and the stores I went to and the parks I played in on the page so that others could read about us, come to know us, love us as much as we loved each other. 

I didn't know any writers who were or had grown up in Bushwick.  Some part of me, because of this, didn't think that I'd ever really be a writer.  The stories, I thought, would live in the notebooks I wrote them in to be shared with friends and family who told me again and again to keep writing.

So I did.

Another Brooklyn was a journey that took me through so many memories of my childhood – the Blackout of 1977, the devastation of Biafra and the Vietnam War, the music that moved like air around us, seeping into our memory as we walked through the world aware of only the edges of the songs.  I went back to my own teenage years to mine the emotional memory of what it felt like to be a young girl who was at once passionate and lost, beautiful and lost.  But beyond that, I mined the wonder of Girlhood, the mystery and magic of what it means to grow up Girl in this country.  I created four characters – August, Sylvia, Angela and Gigi, rewriting their stories until the stories made sense and the girls felt real and whole.

Then, I did what I always do – I went back and looked at the language, reading every part of the book out loud and rewriting until it sounded right to me.  As a novelist and poet, language means so much to me – Words have to work together and sound right without feeling overwritten.  White space matters - -it tells us where to pause and breathe and digest what we've just read.  It asks us to take a moment. Slow down.  Be inside this story.  Walk through Brooklyn for a while – with four amazing girls.

--Jacqueline Woodson


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