Reading this just after Heart of Darkness, had me immensely grateful to be back in Brooklyn again with Woodson’s August, Sylvia, Angela and Gigi in this heartwarming coming-of-age story. After her mother left, August’s father moved them from Tennessee to Brooklyn which is where she met this posse of girls that got her through the tumultuous 1970s.
Women’s rights were only burgeoning. Young girls had even less and virtually no protection from the predatory men of their neighborhood. August escapes through school and work, but her father’s death has brought her back and the memories are flooding in. “This is memory.”
The trauma of losing her mother and uncle led her to an anthropology career of studying different cultures’ rituals of death and it is this August that is back 20 years later reliving her adolescence.
She remembers being melancholy and alone, wishing she had friends. She remembers being taken in by this group of girls she watched from afar, wondering why they liked her, but grateful that they did. She remembers the poverty of her neighborhood, the addictions of her neighbors. This wasn’t the hip, trendy Brooklyn of today, this was a place to run from, not to. Together the girls learn to navigate the rough streets, the drunks, the lechers and the dangers that lurked around every corner.
Some of their dreams come true in spite of the tumultuous circumstances of their lives, some of them die with the girl herself. “I know now that what is tragic isn’t the moment. It is the memory.”
Another Brooklyn is a haunting, poetic read that finds beauty in tragedy and Woodson is a lyrical storyteller.