AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A FAMILY PHOTO by Jacqueline Woodson

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A FAMILY PHOTO

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Woodson still has one foot in the young adult world of her earlier novels (I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This, p. 782, etc.) with this dreamy, sometimes too spare story of an African-American girl growing up in Brooklyn from 1966 to 1978. Early on, the unnamed narrator's older sister, Angel, claims that with a little effort their family could be like the Brady Bunch, but the text slowly reveals how far that is from the truth. Angel and her sister have three brothers: Troy, a gay teenager who goes to Vietnam to prove his manhood; Carlos, who is sexually abusive from an early age; and Cory, who is apparently the son of their mother and another man. The narrator's cool observation of her own emerging sexuality and the sexual behavior of those around her is the most appealing aspect here. Woodson has an infallible ear for dialogue among children, in particular the way they talk (often with naive brilliance) about sex. During a playground discussion in which young girls touch edgily on the subject of sexual abuse, one who tries to speak concretely about her experience is cut off: `` `So what?' someone says. `Like it don't happen to everybody?' '' In another episode, the ten-year-old narrator and a friend named Olga straddle each other in a basement to get ``the feeling,'' until Catholic Olga realizes with horror that they're carrying on next to an altar. Chapters build on each other, but the information provided is too scanty to really create any depth. In its absence, Woodson attempts to goose the narrative with dramatic incidents, or events that on the surface seem harmless but have danger rumbling underneath. The wistful tone is not enough to sustain momentum, since it is never entirely clear what these characters want. Ultimately, these are finely written vignettes that just miss meshing into something more forceful. A photograph that fades too quickly.

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 1995
ISBN: 0-525-93721-8
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1994




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