Brown Girl Dreaming Quotes from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes

Brown Girl Dreaming

Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Nancy Paulsen Books edition of Brown Girl Dreaming published in 2014.
Part 1 Quotes

I am born on a Tuesday at University Hospital
Columbus, Ohio,
USA–
a country caught

between Black and White.

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker)
Page Number: 1
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My birth certificate says: Female Negro
Mother: Mary Anne Irby, 22, Negro
Father: Jack Austin Woodson, 25, Negro

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), Mama, Jack
Page Number: 3
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My time of birth wasn’t listed
on the certificate, then got lost again
amid other people’s bad memory.

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), Mama, Jack, Grandma Grace
Page Number: 18
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You can keep your South…
The way they treated us down there,
I got your mama out as quick as I could…
Told her there’s never gonna be a Woodson
that sits in the back of a bus.

Related Characters: Jack (speaker), Mama
Page Number: 29
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We’re as good as anybody.

Related Characters: Mama (speaker), Jacqueline, Odella, Grandpa Hope
Page Number: 31
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Part 2 Quotes

I’m not ashamed…cleaning is what I know. I’m not ashamed if it feeds my children.

Related Characters: MaryAnn (speaker)
Page Number: 55
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Don’t ever ma’am anyone!
The word too painful
a memory for my mother
of not-so-long-ago
southern subservient days…

The list of what not to say
goes on and on…

You are from the North, our mother says.
You know the right way to speak.

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), Mama (speaker), Grandpa Hope
Page Number: 69
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At the fabric store, we are not Colored
or Negro. We are not thieves or shameful
or something to be hidden away.
At the fabric store, we’re just people.

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), MaryAnn
Page Number: 90-91
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In downtown Greenville,
they painted over the WHITE ONLY signs,
except on the bathroom doors,
they didn’t use a lot of paint
so you can still see the words, right there
like a ghost standing in front
still keeping you out

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker)
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
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Retelling each story.
Making up what I didn’t understand
or missed when voices dropped too low, I talk
until my sister and brother’s soft breaths tell me
they’ve fallen
asleep.

Then I let the stories live
inside my head, again and again
until the real world fades back
into cricket lullabies
and my own dreams.

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), Odella, Grandpa Hope
Page Number: 99
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And I imagine her standing
in the middle of the road, her arms out
fingers pointing North and South:

I want to ask:
Will there always be a road?
Will there always be a bus?
Will we always have to choose
between home

and home?

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), Mama
Page Number: 104
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But I want the world where my daddy is
and I don’t know why
anybody’s God would make me
have to choose.

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), Gunnar
Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 3 Quotes

Sometimes, I lie about my father.
He died, I say, in a car wreck or…
He’s coming soon…
if my sister’s nearby she shakes her head. Says,
She’s making up stories again. Says,
We don’t have a father anymore.
Says,
Our grandfather’s our father now.
Says,
Sometimes, that’s the way things happen.

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), Odella
Page Number: 170
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It’s hard to understand
the way my brain works— so different
from everybody around me.
How each new story
I’m told becomes a thing
that happens,
in some other way to me…!

Keep making up stories, my uncle says.
You’re lying, my mother says.

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), Mama, Uncle Robert
Page Number: 176
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Our feet are beginning to belong in two different worlds— Greenville
and New York. We don’t know how to come
home and leave
home
behind us.

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), Odella, Grandpa Hope, Mrs. Hughes
Page Number: 194-195
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 4 Quotes

Is that what you want us to call you?

I want to say, No, my name is Jacqueline
but I am scared of that cursive q, know
I may never be able to connect it to c and u
so I nod even though
I am lying.

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), Ms. Moskowitz (speaker)
Page Number: 218
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Words come slow to me
on the page until
I memorize them, reading the same books over
and over, copying
lyrics to songs from records and TV commercials,
the words settling into my brain, into my memory.
Not everyone learns
to read this way— memory taking over when the rest
of the brain stops working,
but I do.

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker)
Related Symbols: Composition Notebook
Page Number: 221-222
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If someone had taken
that book out of my hand
said, You’re too old for this
maybe
I’d never have believed that someone who looked like me
could be in the pages of the book
that someone who looked like me
had a story.

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker)
Page Number: 228
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It’s hard not to see the moment—
my grandmother in her Sunday clothes, a hat
with a flower pinned to it
neatly on her head, her patent-leather purse,
perfectly clasped
between her gloved hands—waiting quietly
long past her turn.

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), MaryAnn
Page Number: 238
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I love my friend,
and still do
when we play games
we laugh. I hope she never goes away from me
because I love my friend.
­–Jackie Woodson

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), Maria
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:
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We take our food out to her stoop just as the grown-ups
start dancing merengue, the women lifting their long dresses
to show off their fast-moving feet,
the men clapping and yelling,
Baila! Baila! until the living room floor disappears.
When I ask Maria where Diana is she says,
They’re coming later. This part is just for my family.

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), Maria (speaker), Diana
Page Number: 256
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What’s wrong with you?
Have you lost your mind?
Don’t you know people get arrested
for this?

They’re just words,
I whisper.
They’re not trying to hurt anybody!

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), Uncle Robert (speaker), Maria
Page Number: 261
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 5 Quotes

I still don’t know what it is
That would make people want to get along.

Maybe no one does.

Angela Davis smiles, gap-toothed and beautiful,
raises her fist in the air
says, Power to the people, looks out from the television

directly into my eyes.

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker)
Page Number: 305
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Some evenings, I kneel toward Mecca with my uncle.
Maybe Mecca
is the place Leftie goes to in his mind, when
the memory of losing his arm becomes too much. Maybe Mecca is
good memories,
presents and stories and poetry and arroz con pollo
and family and friends…

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), Uncle Robert, Leftie
Page Number: 306
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And all the worlds you are—
Ohio and Greenville
Woodson and Irby
Gunnar’s child and Jack’s daughter
Jehovah’s Witness and nonbeliever
listener and writer
Jackie and Jacqueline
gather into one world
called You
where You decide
what each world
and each story
and each ending
will finally be.

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), Gunnar, Jack
Page Number: 319-320
Explanation and Analysis:
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