I'm embarrassed to admit that Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming wasn't on my radar until the National Book Awards--but having read it, I think it fully deserves the recognition and wish I'd heard about it earlier.
In lovely, accessible free verse, Woodson recounts a childhood in three places: Ohio, South Carolina, and New York. She paints a vivid, moving picture of each place and the friends and family that made up her life. The story is engaging on so many levels: Woodson's struggles with literacy (and school in general) and her passionate fascination with words. The emerging civil rights movement and how it affected her and her family. A glimpse into her life as a Jehovah's Witness, which complicates in interesting ways our cultural assumptions about what it means to grow up black in the South.
The book was a relatively quick read, but so compelling: I rooted for the young Jackie and I think her story is an important one, both for the personal relationships it explores and for what it adds to the national dialogues about Civil Rights era history.