While exchanging books with a friend, she asked, "Have you ever read Another Brooklyn?" When I shook my head "no," she thrust her copy into my hands and exclaimed, "You are going to love this."
Her copy notes sections she found beautiful (marked with a star or an underline). It was fun to move through the book and uncover the passages that moved her.
Anyone else remember the episode of Gilmore Girls where Jess tells Rory that "notes in the margin are the best part" of reading?
Another Brooklyn is written by Jacqueline Woodson. She won the National Book Award for Brown Girl Dreaming and has authored over two dozen books.
While this book is considered fiction, it reads like poetry. It reminded me of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong.
Another Brooklyn is the story of August, a young woman who arrives in Brooklyn, NY after a childhood in Tennessee. She is discovering herself and her neighborhood at the same time.
On page 17, "The small apartment was on the top floor of a three-story building. My brother and I had never been this high up, and we spent hours staring past the painted-shut windows down to the street below. The people passing beneath us were all beautiful in some way - beautifully thin, beautifully obese, beautifully Afroed, or cornrowed, or bald. Beautifully dressed in bright African dashikis and bellbottomed jeans, miniskirts and halters." Her writing is so descriptive and vivid.
Much of the book centers around August becoming friends with three girls who live nearby: Sylvia, Angela and Gigi. They rely on each other to understand what's happening with their families, their bodies and the boys they're suddenly attracted to.
Eventually, Sylvia couples up with Jerome, August's first real love. August spots them walking together down the street and thinks, "When you're fifteen, pain skips over reason, aims right for marrow. I don't know how long I stood there staring at them, watching Jerome slip his hand away from Sylvia's, watching Sylvia inch away." We all know that gut-punch feeling, which is articulated here so acutely.
When I finished reading, I wondered to myself, "How much of this is autobiographical?" In an author's note as the close of the book, Woodson writes, "I do know that as the novel takes shape on the page, it's hard for characters' lives not to intersect with the writer's own life. As we unpack our own characters' stories and actions, it's hard not to unpack our own history. In Another Brooklyn, I looked back to my teenage years, mining them, rediscovering the deep love I had for my friends, the startling joy and fear of first loves, the will's intensity to survive, and the slow-motion ferocity of the end of childhood."
This book is beautifully written and taps into deep, raw emotions. At 175 pages, it's a quick read, but one you won't soon forget.
*Image courtesy of Buzz Feed News.