Another Brooklyn Summary

Jacqueline Woodson

Another Brooklyn

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Another Brooklyn Summary

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Another Brooklyn (2016) is a novel by American author Jacqueline Woodson. The 2018-2019 Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature frequently writes about issue-oriented themes, such as interracial relationships and homosexuality, often challenging literary taboos. Gender, social, and racial issues are frequent topics as Woodson creates realistic characters searching for self.

As the book opens, August returns to Brooklyn to tend to the funeral of her father two decades after significant times in her childhood. She is with her younger brother who follows the Nation of Islam. As they share a meal, he tries to get August to turn to faith to deal with her current situation. As they ride the subway to their father’s apartment to clean it out, August sees Sylvia, a woman with whom she was close during childhood. At this point, the narrative flashes back to the summer of 1973; August was eight years old when her mother started to hear voices.

The early years of August’s life are spent on family property in Tennessee. The land is known as Sweet Grove. August’s mother begins hearing voices when her brother Clyde is killed in Vietnam. She begins sleeping with a knife by her side. August’s father moves with his two children to Brooklyn, New York, which is where he grew up. August is ten and her brother is six. They believe that their mother will one day come to get them. They live in a third-floor apartment and observe the world around them from the window. August notices three girls whose names are Sylvia, Gigi, and Angela. While they are in Brooklyn, someone from the Nation of Islam meets August’s father. Their quiet summer moves on unmarred until her brother pushes his hands through a window.

Eventually, the siblings are allowed to venture outside. August walks around thinking about her mother and hoping that she will see her. Every day, she and her brother go for walks looking for her, believing that they will eventually find her. Once they return to school, August finds herself accepted into the group of girls that she had observed from the window. Sylvia is from Martinique and has been in Brooklyn for a year. She reads Hegel and Marcel in French. Gigi and her twenty-one-year-old mother are from South Carolina. Angela appears to have always lived in Brooklyn and tells the others that she has no past history.

August thinks back to the summers spent at Coney Island with her family. It was a time when they had no recognition of the poverty in which they were living. She only fully understands it in retrospect. She realizes that the neighborhood was in flux with a prostitute living downstairs from them, drug addicts in the stairways, and homeless Vietnam veterans on the streets. Overshadowing all of that was August’s unending belief that her mother would eventually return to her. Lacking her mother leaves August relying on the friendships she has developed with the three girls. They all have different dreams and help each other through difficult times in their lives. The closer they get, the more they realize their differences. As the girls mature into young women, Brooklyn seems a more threatening place. The boys and men around them take notice of the girls’ sexuality as the girls struggle to hold onto their childhood.

More events in the lives of the girls are discussed after which the storyline moves forward to August, now going by the name Auggie, in college. She has relationships with men and women and does a lot of traveling. When early in her college career she sees Angela on television, she is pleased that at least one of her group has made it out of their shared past. The book concludes with a flashback scene in which August, her brother, and their father return to Sweet Grove and visit the body of water where her mother drowned. To August, life is a journey home; there everything becomes a memory.

The New York Times said of Another Brooklyn, “Woodson brings the reader so close to her young characters that you can smell the bubble gum on their breath and feel their lips as they brush against your ear. This is both the triumph and challenge of this powerfully insightful novel. ‘This is memory,’ we are reminded. But this is also the here and now. There is no time to take a few paces back and enjoy the comforts of hindsight. The present, we are repeatedly reminded, is no balm for the wounds of the past.”