This memoir in verse, and the fact that it’s written with an eye on and ear for Woodson’s usual YA audience, is just remarkable. She evokes characters and places with subtle and sparse strokes. Her family members, particularly her Grandfather and Mother, come to life. So does Greenville, South Carolina.
Woodson subscribes to the less is more approach as she sees herself, her family, her surroundings, and her world changing. Her grandfather’s cough, her first notebook, and a neighbor, Miss Bell, who feeds protestors as they plan their actions are all evoked in such a vivid fashion. I could see things through Woodson’s eyes.
Given that she’s a writer, it’s not surprising that words and her experiences with them provide a strand throughout the book – from the words she couldn’t say at home to the words she had trouble capturing on paper (both as a writer and a reader) to the stories she heard and told, it is easy to see how Woodson became such a magician with words. If she is overly fond of the separate one-line ending to a number of poems, that’s forgivable. I would like to have seen more effort to link them – to allow one to flow into the next.
Woodson provides neat (sort of) summaries in her last few poems. Angela Davis and the Black Panthers have entered her consciousness. Her world is filled with twos, twos she enumerates in “what i believe.” Despite and because of this, she has created her own very unique story. I hope she plans to write more.