This is National Book Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson's first adult novel in many years, and she has mostly written young adult and middle-grade fiction. I was so excited to read this, as I loved Brown Girl Dreaming, which was a memoir in poetic form. Woodson has a way with words and is a beautiful writer.
Another Brooklyn is set a few decades ago, before Brooklyn became the hipster hot spot it is today. In that older Brooklyn, white families are packing up and leaving, and neighborhoods are being overtaken by prostitutes, drug dealers, and sexual predators. Into this environment comes August, a young girl with a younger brother, who have been brought to Brooklyn from Tennessee by their father. August cannot wait for the day their mother returns to them. Her father finds a job, but she and her brother are strictly forbidden to leave the apartment, leaving them to gaze longingly at people outdoors. In particular, August sees three girls who appear very close, and she wishes she could join them.
When she finally gets to go to school, she meets them, and they all instantly become close friends: August, Gigi, Sylvia, and Angela. The book follows their growing into their teenage years with barest traces of their future lives.
As in Brown Girl Dreaming, there is some beautiful writing here. But Woodson creates a narrative that, for me, keeps the reader at a far distance from the characters. It was hard to get to know them, except for August, who narrates. But I often struggled to remember who Gigi, Sylvia, and Angela were. Some hard things happen, but they're glanced on so lightly and poetically that it barely feels like there's any consequence to those events. At one point, August's father and brother join the Nation of Islam, which is depicted to breezily that other than changing their eating and praying habits, it's hard to understand whether or not that made any difference in their lives.
So, a disappointment for me, but I will still look for her next book.