Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming Themes

Themes and Colors
Memory Theme Icon
Racism, Activism, and the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
The North and The South Theme Icon
Religion and Spiritualism Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Brown Girl Dreaming, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

As a memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming is both shaped by and concerned with memory—“memoir” comes from the French word “memoire,” meaning memory. Through her attention to memory in Brown Girl Dreaming, Woodson shows how memory works, not only in her own life, but also in storytelling more generally.

An important thread of Brown Girl Dreaming is the exploration of how Jacqueline’s relationship to memory changes as she grows up. As Woodson portrays it…

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Brown Girl Dreaming focuses on the experience of growing up as an African-American child during the 1960s and early 1970s, a period of intense energy and organization surrounding questions of race and racial justice. The 60s were a turning point for race in America thanks to the Civil Rights Movement, which advocated for an end to Jim Crow Laws (laws that legalized segregation and racial discrimination) through nonviolent protest. The late 60s and early 70s…

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Brown Girl Dreaming is largely about Jacqueline’s early impulse towards storytelling and narration. For Jacqueline, writing becomes a way of coming to terms with many of the painful aspects of her life; storytelling empowers her to change her relationship to her own memories, denying them their power to cause her pain.

In Jacqueline’s own life, other people’s capacity for storytelling soothes her and helps her find catharsis. She finds works that especially touch her…

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Woodson examines what the North and the South mean to Jacqueline, and to African-Americans in the 60s more generally, as she follows Jacqueline’s moves back and forth between the two regions. Throughout Jacqueline’s childhood, she moves between the North (Ohio and New York City, to be specific) and the South (South Carolina). As she does so, both become home to her, but she develops different associations with each.

For Jacqueline, the South comes to…

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Throughout Brown Girl Dreaming, religion features prominently in Jacqueline’s life, though her views of religion expand and change throughout the book. Through the eyes of Jacqueline, Woodson explores the benefits, contradictions, and limits of organized and unorganized religion, contrasting various sects of Christianity and Islam with more abstract forms of spirituality.

In her early years, after the family moves back to South Carolina, Jacqueline and her siblings practice as Jehovah’s Witnesses under the…

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