cover image Autobiography of a Family Photo

Autobiography of a Family Photo

Jacqueline Woodson. Dutton Books, $17.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-525-93721-0

Acclaimed young-adult writer Woodson (Maizon at Blue Hill) crosses over to adult fiction with this family novel that's brilliant, moving, semi-surreal-and daring, as the author fearlessly loads her palette with words that can offer great color but little sense. Set in Brooklyn mostly during the Vietnam war, the story opens on a nameless black narrator, who's in the fifth grade, and her four siblings, then lets 12 years pass like gray pages of a tabloid. Chapters come in small chunks broken off from the narrator's nerve-tossed heart. Her new baby brother, Cory, is half white (and ``the proof that a black man can't leave his woman for one minute without her making a fool out of him,'' says her annoyed father). Her gay eldest brother, Troy, spends his last night home before going to Vietnam prancing around the kids' bedroom in his mother's high heels. Her third brother, Carlos, has blue eyes whose origin baffles him, and her mother falls into a bad mood and for a week saturates herself with a new Al Green record. Nearly every stage of the narrator's growth is a kind of death, though punctuated by falling in love and by traveling to Coney Island, Cape Cod and the Statue of Liberty. Troy comes home in a casket. Daddy drinks, beats Mama, slips off. Mama gets a bad job with the phone company, then loses her voice forever, while the narrator comes into puberty and ever increasing understanding that this ``world can hold a million little girls in its hand. This world can drop them.'' QPB featured alternate. (Jan.)