Written by Jacqueline Woodson
Audiobook read by Robin Miles
Published by HarperCollins on August 9th 2016
Genres: Fiction, African American, General
Source: public library via Overdrive
National Book Award FinalistNew York Times Bestseller
The acclaimed New York Times bestselling and National Book Award–winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming delivers her first adult novel in twenty years.
Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.
But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.
Like Louise Meriwether’s Daddy Was a Number Runner and Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn heartbreakingly illuminates the formative time when childhood gives way to adulthood—the promise and peril of growing up—and exquisitely renders a powerful, indelible, and fleeting friendship that united four young lives.
ANOTHER BROOKLYN Is a Memory
- What’s it about? After years away, world-traveling anthropologist August returns to Brooklyn for her father’s funeral. She spots a woman on the subway and realizes that it’s Sylvia. Sylvia, Angela, Gigi, and August were inseparable until the changes of approaching womanhood separated them, and seeing Sylvia sends August deep into memories of Another Brooklyn.
August’s Brooklyn is a memory of the 1970s, a place becoming browner and blacker as she and her friends watch the white families drive off in moving trucks. Brooklyn life happens in the streets and the parks and in the bedrooms of walk-up apartments. Girls bond over pop music and mothers, and leave each other over boys. They know each other’s secrets and support each other’s ambitions, except when they don’t.
- Why did I read it? I knew of author Jacqueline Woodson through the acclaim for her memoir-in-verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, but hadn’t read her before. Another Brooklyn is her first “adult” book in 20 years. Its setting and time period caught my attention; I spent the 1970s growing up not too far from Brooklyn. I originally borrowed this from the library as an ebook, but returned it in favor of the audiobook because the type was uncomfortably small.
Memory, Pictured in Poetry
- What worked for me? I’m glad I went for audio on this one. Another Brooklyn is read by Robin Miles. It’s the third time this year I’ve listened to her narrate a book by a Black woman author but the first time with a novel, and I think this is the best work I’ve heard from her yet. Woodson gave her wonderful material to work with, though. Another Brooklyn is not a pretty story, but the writing is gorgeous. Woodson’s rhythmic, evocative language conveys the imprecision and subjectivity of memory without sugarcoating or losing track of emotional truths.
- What didn’t I like? My only issue with Another Brooklyn is that I’d really have liked it to be longer. I wanted to stay immersed in August’s memories.
- Recommended? Emphatically, yes! I intend to buy a print copy of Another Brooklyn to read again. This is an outstanding audiobook, though, and I’d encourage reading it that way too. This novel of memory is memorable, moving and absolutely remarkable.
Other Thoughts about ANOTHER BROOKLYN
“Every paragraph is set off by blank lines, which emphasizes the poetic style of Woodson’s prose. That structure also effectively slows the narrative down and contributes to its dream-like tone. Time is fluid in this story, as August recalls events that impressed her — and events that she repressed.” – The Washington Post
“The heartbreak of girlhood isn’t that it doesn’t last, as an adult August comes to understand. ‘What is tragic isn’t the moment. It is the memory.’ Structured as short vignettes, each reading more like prose poetry than traditional narrative, the novel unfolds as memory does, in burning flashes, thick with detail, unmooring August from her current reality.” – The New York Times
“Another Brooklyn is not another ‘New York is the greatest city in the world’ story. It’s about the fact that women are stronger together as friends than apart or as enemies. August’s mother tells her women aren’t to be trusted: ‘Keep your arm out, she said. And keep women a whole other hand away from the farthest tips of your fingernails. She told me to keep my nails long.’ But August, Sylvia, Angela and Gigi protected each other.” – Los Angeles Times
For a long time, my mother wasn’t dead yet. Mine could have been a more tragic story. My father could have given in to the bottle or the needle or a woman and left my brother and me to care for ourselves—or worse, in the care of New York City Children’s Services, where, my father said, there was seldom a happy ending. But this didn’t happen. I know now that what is tragic isn’t the moment. It is the memory.
If we had had jazz, would we have survived differently? If we had known our story was a blues with a refrain running through it, would we have lifted our heads, said to each other, This is memory again and again until the living made sense? Where would we be now if we had known there was a melody to our madness? Because even though Sylvia, Angela, Gigi, and I came together like a jazz improv—half notes tentatively moving toward one another until the ensemble found its footing and the music felt like it had always been playing—we didn’t have jazz to know this was who we were. We had the Top 40 music of the 1970s trying to tell our story. It never quite figured us out.
The summer I turned fifteen, my father sent me to a woman he had found through his fellow Nation of Islam brothers. An educated sister, he said, who I could talk to. By then, I was barely speaking. Where words had once flowed easily, I was suddenly silent, breath snatched from me, replaced by a melancholy my family couldn’t understand.