This isn't just a novel, it's a love letter to girlhood. Specifically, it's a gorgeously crafted, prose style, love letter to growing up as a black giThis isn't just a novel, it's a love letter to girlhood. Specifically, it's a gorgeously crafted, prose style, love letter to growing up as a black girl in 1970's Brooklyn. Anyone who has read Jacqueline Woodson's writing, knows that she has a knack for transporting her readers straight to wherever her story is set. In this case, that's even truer than before. Through August's memories, through the snippets that she deigns to share with us, the reader is transported straight back to her childhood in a place that wasn't quite home. A place where the mean streets chewed people up, and spit them back out. Unfortunately, not always whole. You can feel this place, this time, pulsing on the page. Another Brooklyn is stunning, and even that compliment is an understatement.
August allows the reader to follow her back to a time and place where friendship was the only thing keeping her whole. Woodson manages to bring these four girls, and their separate home situations, to life in vivid color. I didn't think it was possible to accomplish that in such a short amount of pages. I was wrong. Each one of these girls is hiding their true self from the others, in the hope that it will allow them to escape into one another for a while. Hoping it will allow them to fade into a group that provides its own kind of family. As those true selves came to light, and I was treated to a glimpse at why these girls needed one another so deeply, my heart broke into pieces. The whole world, at least as they knew it, was against them. Their bravery, as thin a shield as it may have been, was commendable.
If I had one small complaint, it would be that this book simply isn't long enough. I know that seems trivial, since Woodson is clearly capable of weaving a perfect story in this small amount of pages. However I missed these girls after the story was over. I wanted to hear more about their pasts. To live their stories. To be able to fully mourn the ones who didn't make it. I'd have read 400 pages of this, and not even batted an eyelash. That's the kind of writer that Jacqueline Woodson is, and why you should pay attention. So yes, in case it wasn't obvious, you should read this. It absolutely deserves your time....more
My previous experiences with self-help books have been fairly terrible. Each time someone would come to me and put a book in my hand, while uttering tMy previous experiences with self-help books have been fairly terrible. Each time someone would come to me and put a book in my hand, while uttering the words "This book is going to change your life!", I've found the contents to be overly preachy. They've always had this miasma of insincerity hanging over them. Which is why, odd as it may sound, I decided to accept a copy of How to Be You for review. I wanted to try again, now that I'm a bit older. I wanted to see if there was a book out there that could change my mind. I owe huge, squishy hugs to Jeffrey Marsh for doing just that.
Marsh's tone is perfectly sincere, the entire length of this book. There's no judgement, and no "THIS IS THE WAY YOU BECOME HAPPY!" being thrown about on the pages. It's more an invitation to take a deep, introspective look at who you are as a person. This book engages the reader with stories from Marsh's own life, little snippets of wonderful hero/ine stories, and prompts to help build self-trust and self-acceptance. The tone is kept light, but it's the honesty here that really made me smile. It's even a bit silly at times, which really helped seal this as something that I wanted to experience. Marsh expresses over and over that being you should be fun! I don't think I'd ever really stopped to think about life that way before I read this book.
The chapter on expressing emotions particularly hit home for me. I love how this isn't for a particular age group, or ethnicity, or lifestyle choice, or anything of that nature. It's a journey for everyone. The chapter on expressing emotion shows this in brilliant color. Everyone feels emotions, sure. Reading through this portion really showed me that we don't stop to think about what those are, really. Or how to deal with them. Or how we don't deal with them. I've been on a personal mission to learn how to better express my own emotions, so it felt good to see printed on the page the fact that it's okay admit when you're feeling anything. Sadness, anger, all the "bad" emotions, are just as important to experience as the good. I needed that validation, and I didn't even know it.
Look, I'm being completely honest with you when I say that my favorite part of this book is just the idea that life is fluid. That's been a lesson that I've learned the hard way, through many a mistake and many an attempt to control the uncontrollable. I wish someone had handed me this book when I was at my darkest moment and just smiled, sat beside me, and let me read through it. Reading it now still helped immensely, and this is something I'll keep close for many more readthroughs, but also something I plan to go and put gently into other reader's hands. Self-care, self-acceptance, self-worth, are all important things that we forget to acknowledge. Marsh has written a beautiful book that reminds us to look inside, and enjoy the crazy, wonderful life we've been given....more