Amistad (August, 2016)
August has come back to Brooklyn for her father’s funeral and the journey has sparked a riot of memory the propels her backward to her girlhood and the friends she made and left there. We travel with her and walk through the streets of a neighborhood in transition with girls who are transitioning as well. All four reflections of themselves and so different. August, Sylvia, Gigi and Angela build each other up against the breaking of bones and dreams that life does in order to grow girls into women and we watch as they all form beautiful scars.
The book is a dream and it’s told in a lyrical way that moves in time from the present day back to twelve, thirteen, sixteen and beyond. We’re wistful as the girls find young love, or what they believe is love and wince as the consequences come in harsh and biting as winter wind. The tale is fiction, but it is truth and because of that some won’t think it’s appropriate for younger readers, but I find real life comforting because so few of us are given the luxury of living in fantasy and that includes children.
This Book is For:
- Anyone who loves books in verse
- Anyone who is longing for the truth in contemporary fiction, something bittersweet and nourishing
- Anyone who hasn’t read a good story about black girlhood in a long while or at all
- August is longing for her mother, but doesn’t know it. How does it manifest in her life?
- So many people are dealing with undiagnosed mental illness in the book. How do they cope or don’t?
- We know that Sylvia is alright in the end. Can you imagine what her story past the point of the baby?
- In their middle school years the girls are connected at the hip. Was it inevitable that they’d drift apart?
- Discuss the idea of boys and men as predators. Is that a fair assessment?
- Woodson writes that Brooklyn had longer nails. Talk about how that statement is true and untrue.
- The girls saw themselves as wild and beautiful until people like Sylvia’s father made them feel that they were not. In what ways does your world impose assumptions of inferiority on poor children? Does it?
Woodson writes towards the end of the book that the lives of the girls should have been in Jazz, but they did not know it. The feeling I get from the book is slow and organically sweet like John Coltrane. So listen to A Love Supreme by John Coltrane while you read.