Monday, November 28, 2016

Another Brooklyn

Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline Woods

A couple of weeks ago I went to hear Jacqueline Woods read from Brown Girl Dreaming and Another Brooklyn at Women & ChildrenFirst Bookstore. What a refreshing evening—saw some old friends from AROHO.

Brown Girl Dreaming is straight up memoir. It won National Book Award for Young People's Literature in non-fiction. Another Brooklyn is another story. A lot of good fiction reads like autobiography. And, certainly, there is little division between the two. Our lives inform our stories, and visa versa. Yet, any reader of Brown Girl Dreaming will see resounding strains in Another Brooklyn. Certainly Woodson’s love for her adopted hometown. Also something else—nostalgia.

Many of us look back with different glasses on our past, but in NYC and Brooklyn the neighborhoods are dramatically changing. Readers of this blog will know from my posts that I’m no fan of gentrification. Yet there is no stopping these population shifts. Those who are ousted or forced to leave because of high rents, a building getting renovated and out-priced, or simply going condo. In Uptown we have witnessed through the last 30 years a shift from diversity (Uptown was noted in a National Geographic article as one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Chicago)—ethnically and economically toward a more white, educated, higher-income demographic. New development favors people with income—who else can at least afford a studio renting for $1,700 a month!

In NYC these changes have been seismic. Family-run businesses or locally owned are having to vacate so that another Banana Republic can lease. Brands are bordering both sides of the street. Brooklyn and Flatbush, once a refuge for newcomers, affordable rent, a melting pot has this past decade become another Manhattan. Sought-after real estate. 

While one can celebrate less crime, there is also a sacrifice in diversity. Say goodbye to characters, impromptu street theater, the crazies that made life interesting, the old days when people knew each other, before social media called you out, before the haters. Woodson in Another Brooklyn recalls kids hanging out, stolen kisses in gangways and parks, boomboxes and crooners at the corners, the candy store. Platform shoes! 

Is it me or were folks just cooler back then?

As we have already learned, post-election, there is no going back. Time marches on and change is inevitable. Even the most unwelcome of changes. Money certainly does rule. But it doesn’t have to corrupt our memories.

I loved Another Brooklyn, a perfect read for adults, young adults, anyone in love with NYC, Brooklyn, nostalgic for the 80s. Anyone who has ever looked back with longing.
speaking and reading from Brown Girl Dreaming and Another Brooklyn at Women & Children First Bookstore

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