In the poem "caroline but we called her aunt kay, some memories," Woodson uses brief, vivid scenes from Aunt Kay's life to create an engaging picture of her character and underscore the sudden and stark nature of death. The happy memories that make up these poems are no longer than five lines each, and are generally everyday scenes like Aunt Kay singing with Jacqueline's mother and their friend and Aunt Kay holding her arms open for the children to hug her. By juxtaposing these bright, fleeting images with the finality of Aunt Kay's death just a page later, Woodson makes the reader acutely feel Jacqueline's family's sudden loss.
Jacqueline's Reading Struggles
Woodson struggled greatly with reading and writing as a child, and she uses playful and metaphor-laden language to communicate what reading was like for her. In the poem "gifted," Jacqueline laments how easy school is for her sister. While Odella can achieve high grades with ease, for Jacqueline, "The words twist/ twirl across the page" (169). The way Jacqueline describes the words on the page physically moving implies that she may have had dyslexia, a learning disorder that makes it difficult to read. She goes on to say, "I want to catch words one day. I want to hold them/ then blow gently,/ watch them float/ right out of my hands" (169). By using creative and imaginative language, Jacqueline communicates her strong desire to master language, a desire which leads her to pursue a career as a writer.
Jacqueline loves nature, and this is in no small part due to her beloved grandfather's influence. During her early childhood in South Carolina, she is surrounded by nature, watching her grandfather's garden grow and listening to the sounds of wild animals outside as she falls asleep. Woodson's focus on imagery of nature shows Jacqueline's fascination with the world, especially things that live and grow. Furthermore, the imagery of nature included in the poems while Jacqueline is in South Carolina emphasize the difference and disruption of her life when the family moves to New York, a place with little nature.
New York City
While Jacqueline strongly disliked New York City when she first moved there, it is clear from Woodson's depiction of the city that she grew to have great affection for the city. She shows the reality of the city through Jacqueline's observations in her first months there such as "Here/ the sidewalks burn hot all summer long./ Here we wear shoes. Broken bottles/ don't always get swept up right away" (147). Then, later in the story, she builds more positive associations with imagery of the city. For example, she writes, "Our mouths water in the hot sun as we hand him/ our quarters then wait patiently as her pours/ the syrup over the ice" (184). The sensory details in this scene show that Jacqueline has come to see New York's hot, bustling climate as a place of excitement rather than disappointment after just a few months.
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.