For a long time, my mother wasn’t dead yet. Mine could have been a more tragic story. My father could have given in to the bottle or the needle or a woman and left my brother and me to care for ourselves — or worse, in the care of New York City Children’s Services, where, my father said, there was seldom a happy ending. But this didn’t happen. I know now that what is tragic isn’t the moment. It is the memory.
Jacquline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn is about August, her younger brother and her father. Their mother was unable to grapple with reality after her younger brother, Clyde, was killed in the Vietnam war. They used to live in Tennessee. Soon August and her sibling were relocated to Brooklyn by their father as it was the place he grew up. The story begins with August returning for her father’s funeral after twenty years of leaving Brooklyn.
It is almost like a stream-of-consciousness outpouring of memories unlocked by August’s visit to Brooklyn to bury her father — the journey her family made physically and spiritually to become somebody better than they already were to the four schoolfriends she made and out grew quickly and the transformation of her younger brother to a devout Muslim. A tale told hauntingly almost as if it were poetry in prose.
Another Brooklyn is a stunning novel. No wonder it was a Time Magazine Top 10 Novel of 2016 and shortlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction 2016.
Soon after I read journalist and writer Amrita Tripathi’s tribute to her late father and could not help but draw comparisons between the texts, to their poignancy and lyrical beauty, despite Another Brooklyn being fictional.
Jacqueline Woodson Another Brooklyn Oneworld Publications, London 2016. Pb. pp. 180
7 August 2017