Poetry that hits home

Jacqueline Woodson’s book of poems brings yesterday’s Greenville to life

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Maybe you’re like me, and you spend too much time on Twitter and Facebook. If so, you may know the hashtag #yeahTHATgreenville. But which Greenville are we talking about? Jacqueline Woodson, award-winning author of the young adult book “Brown Girl Dreaming,” drops us down in her childhood memories of the small Southern town that became the Greenville we know today.

Jacqueline Woodson moved to Greenville as a young girl in the early 1960s. She writes about learning a different way of life down here, one that was slower and sweeter, but that had new rules. She remembers her mother wanting to protest in the civil rights demonstrations at the drugstores downtown, and, when the bathrooms became integrated, standing at bathroom doors and still being able to see “whites only” underneath the freshly applied paint.

Woodson writes with hope about complicated themes that all kids experience but may still find strange: family changes, moving to new cities and discovering that not everybody thinks the same things as your family or yourself but that you can still stand confident on your two feet.

Now, I should warn you that this is a book of poetry, but it feels surprisingly like a novel. Poems aren’t scary. They’re just ideas in a different shape, and these are really straightforward. Maybe the next time you tag your family photo with #yeahTHATgreenville you’ll think about how many different #yeahTHATgreenville moments have happened here – not just in the era of Twitter and Facebook, but since people began calling it their home.


Katie Womble is the curator of oral history for the Upcountry History Museum – Furman University and invites everyone to check out this book through the Greenville County Libraries.

 

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