"You can still see the words, right there/ like a ghost standing in front/ still keeping you out" (92) (Simile)
Jacqueline uses this simile to describe signs saying "WHITE ONLY" (92) that were painted over but still somewhat visible in buildings around Greenville, South Carolina. By comparing the words to a ghost, the author shows that even when the laws regarding discrimination changed, racism and prejudice did not completely disappear. Like a ghost, racism lingered long after its supposed death by the abolishing of Jim Crow laws.
"Let the Bible,/ my grandmother says,/ become your sword and your shield" (112) (Metaphor)
Jacqueline's grandmother is a devout Jehovah's Witness, and when Jacqueline and her siblings come to stay in South Carolina, they are converted into the religion. In this metaphor, Jacqueline's grandmother espouses the belief that God will protect believers during life and after death. The Bible is used to represent God, and instead of directly saying that God will protect the children, Grandma Georgiana uses the metaphor of a sword and shield. Using this vivid, violent metaphor makes God's protection more exciting and literal, which could make religion more enticing for the children.
"The people/ wear doubt/ thick as a cape/ until we smile/ and the cape falls" (148) (Simile)
This simile is used in the poem "genetics" in which Jacqueline describes how she and her siblings Hope and Odella look different from their youngest sibling Roman. She compares strangers questioning their familial or genetic relation to those people wearing a cape of doubt. A cape is an item of clothing which would create a physical separation between the stranger and the children and generally has a dark, spooky tone. When the children smile, the reader can infer that the stranger would see a physical characteristic shared between all of the children: the gap between their teeth. Jacqueline writes that "the cape falls" when this happens, removing the imagined physical barrier to connection between the children and the other person and leaving the poem with a light, happy tone.
"the stories of south carolina run like rivers" (43) (Simile)
This quote is clearly important to Jacqueline Woodson—she made it the title of Part II of Brown Girl Dreaming. Woodson uses many images of rivers in her memoir, and stories are also a major theme in the story. This title ties rivers and stories together by comparing the ways they flow from place to place and person to person. This simile prepares the reader for Part II of the story, during which time Jacqueline connects with both nature and her family's history and the way they are intertwined, just as the ideas of stories and rivers intertwine in this quote.
“How can I explain to anyone that stories are like air to me, I breathe them in and let them out over and over again" (247) (Simile)
Again, Woodson uses a simile to nature to describe her love of stories. In this simile, the author compares the way she repeatedly reads stories to breathing, an act that is so natural and central to human life that one can forget they are even doing it. While her teacher and classmates are impressed at the way she can recite the entire story about the selfish giant, Jacqueline sees memorizing books as a simple and necessary part of life.
Brown Girl Dreaming Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Brown Girl Dreaming is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.