The specificity of an iris bloom

The more specific we are, the more universal something can become.
Life is in the details. If you generalize, it doesn’t resonate.
The specificity of it is what resonates.

~ Jacqueline Woodson

As I revise a young adult novel written years ago, I’m adding specific details in hopes of creating a resonance. May my story bloom as specifically and beautifully as this iris from my garden!

Young girls dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming cover

I finally read Jacqueline Woodson’s BROWN GIRL DREAMING and here are some quick thoughts:

  • This book is lovely and absolutely lived up to its well-deserved buzz and multiple awards.
  • While Ms. Woodson and I are the same age, our childhoods were vastly different. She was a brown girl dreaming in South Carolina and Brooklyn while I was a pale girl who did the majority of my childhood dreaming in rural Wisconsin.
  • On the surface, there were some very big differences in our experiences. Hers included:

Institutionalized prejudice
Religion
Big city life
Loving grandparents and extended family

  • Despite those differences, much of Woodson’s story elicited memories so real I could feel, smell, and taste them while others echoed in my head and heart.

Sly & the Family Stone
Crissy dolls with their adjustable hair
“Tingalayo,” the song about a little donkey I remember from my elementary music class
Bubble Yum
Candy cigarettes
The Funky Chicken
Scooby Doo
Pine-Sol
Keds
Siblings
Best friends
Summer vacation
Listening quietly while grownups spoke
Feeling deeply for those we loved
Struggling to find our voices, our places
Words

Good literature is supposed to help us better understand others and ourselves. BROWN GIRL DREAMING bridged the divide to do exactly that.

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