My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was recently looking for poetry to read because I find that if my soul goes too long without reading (or writing) poems it starts to feel old and creaky, and like the light is starting to go out from it. So, I asked my Facebook friends for a recommendation, and this was the sole recommendation that I received in return.
I quickly downloaded the book on my Kindle and found that it was highly decorated. There were imprints for a National Book Award, a Newberry Honor and a Corretta Scott King award. I knew then that the writing quality would be excellent. I didn’t know then how much pleasure and beauty I would find in reading Woodson’s words.
Woodson is drawing on her childhood memories, growing up as an African American in the 1960s and 70s, to create the story of her childhood in a loosely chronological set of poems. We read about her birth and babyhood in Ohio, her parents’ divorce and her pre-school childhood living with her grandparents in South Carolina, and her mother’s eventual moving of her family to New York around the time that Woodson started school. She writes about best friends, about family members and about learning. We read about her struggles with reading and her budding desire to write. We read about the marches, the bus strikes and horrific conditions for blacks in the south. We read about Kingdom Hall and her early experiences as a Jehovah’s Witness as a child.
If you take the lovely topics of family and every day life, mix in a little history and create beautiful poetry out of it, then you will have what Woodson did with her book.
I found the stories and little snippets of family life enchanting.
I found myself writing little bits of poems down in my notebooks and thinking of them often.
I read the book slowly (for me) and soaked in all the details and reveled in the beautiful writing.
I even found myself reading some of the poems aloud for my ten year old and found that she was just as enchanted by the stories and verse as I was. She did not choose to read the entire book herself at this time, but this is a book that is perfect for reading out loud and enjoying.
I imagine that this will be a book that I come back to. I might assign it to my children for school, or I might just read it for the pure pleasure of it, but it’s a delightful place to linger, and I’m glad that I experienced it.