The short novel by Jacqueline Woodson begins "For a long time, my mother wasn't dead yet," and you are instantly swept up in this beautifully lyrical tale of black womanhood in Brooklyn. The plot sort of takes a backseat to memory. By memory, I mean how the protagonist--August, a young teenager for the majority of the story--copes with the death of her mother. Interwoven are the tales of three of her friends, of her father and brother, of the Nation of Islam, and of Brooklyn. I was quite taken with this story and especially enthralled with the style in which it was written. There is almost a dream-like quality to the prose, taking the reader swiftly in and out of dialogue and August's inner thoughts and her surroundings. The prose felt like long form poetry. For example, page 70:
The world was ending. We had been girls, wobbling around the apartment in GIgi's mother's white go-go boots and then and then and then.
Little pieces of Brooklyn began to fall away. Revealing us.
We envied each other's hair, eyes, butts, noses. We traded clothes and shared sandwiches. Some days we laughed until soda sprayed from our noses and hiccups erupted in our chests.
When boys called our names, we said, Don't even say my name. Don't even put it in your mouth. When they said, You ugly anyway, we knew they were lying. When they hollered, Conceited! we said, No -- convinced! We watched them dip-walk away, too young to know how to respond. The four of us together weren't something they understood. They understood girls alone, folding their arms across their breasts, praying for invisibility.
I thought it was wonderfully written, and I *always* enjoy good historical fiction. Combine historical fiction with a heart-wrenching coming-of-age tale, and Woodson has written a winner. Rating: ★★★★★