I loved this. It read quickly and beautifully. Woodson is exploring ideas of identity within her particular family, culture, locale, and nation. Her exploration of her family genealogy, her family connections near and dear were reminiscent to Madeleine L’Engle’s Summer of the Great Grandmother which I finished (again) last night. She searches out who she is based on her relationships and comparisons with those who’ve gone before. She listens to the stories – family stories, stories read aloud, stories from the library read and re-read – and as she listens they form her and she learns what to say. Some of my favorite poems are the series of “how to listen” haiku strewn throughout the book.
She is shaped by place, by where she is at any given time. She acknowledges this – that any change in her history or her friend Maria’s history or her grandparents, great grandparents – any changes in the lives, choices, histories, locales would make her a different person with different acquaintance and a different life entirely.
There are things I struggle with, this is a book to interact with. The final poem of the book has her believing in all things – even opposite things -with little distinction; no barriers. I think that is dangerous. Her reaction to religious practice of her family within the Jehovah’s Witnesses was a struggle to think through. She seemed resentful of the time spent, thankful for the parameters given, frustrated by reactions by her grandfather and mother, intrigued by the wholly other. Because there are many beliefs wrapped up in the Jehovah’s Witness that are not Trinitarian, Christian parents will want to tread very carefully. I would not hand this to a child without knowing what is there.
Clearly, Woodson has a gift. “Words are my brilliance.” she is acknowledged and acknowledges on pg 248. Yes. For sure. Don’t miss her brilliant words.