Book review: The House You Pass on the Way

FC9780142417065.JPGtitle: The House You Pass on the Way
author: Jacqueline Woodson
date: Delacorte Press, 1997
main character: Staggerlee Canan

 

“And freedom? Oh, freedom.
Well that’s just some people talking.
Your prison is walking through this world all alone.”

Any book that begins in the winter is gong to be a cold, lonely story and the House You Pass On the Way is no exception. While most of Staggerlee’s coming of age story occurs in the warmth of the summer, her overall life lesson reinforces her aloneness. Just like the men in winter, everyone in her life from her grandparents to her favorite brother and now her cousin Trout seems to fade away into the quiet. Staggerlee seems to be taking control of her growing up self, choosing only to answer to “Staggerlee” rather than her given name, Evangeline Ian. But, she has this odd feeling in her that she cannot begin to define until her cousin Trout comes to visit. Away from the Canan home, the house you pass on the way and out by the ever-changing river, the two girls share honesties and intimacies.

Woodson’s metaphorical use of seasons and places provide a rich emotional background for a young, biracial girl whose coming of age means understanding her sexual orientation. An older book by Jacqueline Woodson, it definitely withstands the test of time. The House You Pass on the Way was named to the ALA Popular Paperbacks For Young Adults list in 2006 and won the Lamda Literary Award in 1997.

Book Review: Brown Girl Dreaming

title: Brown 9780399252518Girl Dreaming

author: Jacqueline Woodson

Date: Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin; August 2014

Main Character: Jacqueline Woodson

MIddle Grade Fiction

There are rules to children’s books you know, and Jacqueline Woodson just broke one.

Brown Girl Dreaming is the author’s poetic telling of her childhood and retrospective visits to childhood are supposed to be adult books. Somewhere along when Jackie learned to embrace words and the power they contain, she became entitled to a Poetic License that let this book be produced as a children’s book. Thank goodness!

For me, a Black woman of the same generation who grew up in Ohio with a mother from Mississippi, I quite often found myself pausing and connecting to the story while I daydreamed about my own life. But, this book wasn’t written for me. Will teens relate? Will they find themselves in the spaces Woodson creates when she talks about teeth, not being as smart as, about grandpa’s love and forever friends? I think that they will not only find themselves in these nuances, but they’ll also see how they fit into the larger stories of their family, community and history itself.

In creating a fictional autobiography, Woodson leaves huge spaces that all readers can dive into and find their own meaning. Woodson looks back as adult, but tells the story through the eyes of a child. Her family is her haven whether they’re in New York or South Carolina and even when it looks like things might be going wrong, Jacqueline’s family is perfect in the young girl’s eyes. This girl has a dream to fulfill and we’re going to find out where she gets her strength!

Young Jacqueline is disenchanted with the inaccuracies of memory and the confusion between storytelling and lying.

Keep making up stories, my uncle says.

You’re lying my mother says.

 

Maybe the truth is somewhere between

all that I’m told

and memory.

So, Jacqueline decides to give us her own truths in this story of self empowerment.

I’m so glad Woodson broke the rule!

I reviewed an ARC and am looking forward to adding a final copy to my collection as it will also contain photos.

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Jacqueline Woodson grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from college with a B.A. in English. She now writes full-time and has recently received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. Her other awards include a Newbery Honor, two Coretta Scott King awards, two National Book Award finalists, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. source

book review: Beneath a Meth Moon: an elegy

"A moving, honest and hopeful story." Kirkus Review

book review: Beneath a meth moon: an elegy

author: Jacqueline Woodson

date: Nancy Paulsen Books; February 2012

main character: Laurel Daneau

“Moon” is meth and Laurel has fallen deeply under its spell. Woodson weaves Laurel’s story from the middle to the front and back again, letting readers uncover the path of Laurel’s addiction. We know up front she’s an addict: we meet her panhandling on the street. We know she loves her father and little brother and we find out what happens to her mother and M’Lady but we keep reading to find out why these things happened and in doing so, how they’ve affected Laurel.  Of course sometimes, for somethings, there are no reasons. Maybe Laurel couldn’t let go of her past, but we all know that addiction is just in our DNA.

From the beginning we know Moses is going to be important to Laurel, but we have to keep reading to find out why. There’s a place in the story where Moses is telling Laurel that he, a queer man, paints the faces of dead addicts, of those who have become invisible, on exterior walls for all to see. It’s an interesting point about how society makes the disenfranchised, (those who are of color, queer, disabled, addicted…) invisible and how we can give each other a voice. Laurel’s voice is one of hope in overcoming our past.

Jacqueline Woodson is an award-winning author of picture, middle grade and young adult books.

I read an ARC copy for this review.