Friday, May 30, 2008

Book Snapshot: After Tupac & D Foster

by Jacqueline Woodson

After reading another review, I had to revise my own. This book deserve better than what I read so...

A generation of young people grew up under the mystique of Tupac Shakur. Shakur represented hope, vision and pride for fans spanning across age groups. For many kids, Tupac made them feel like somebody and that their lives mattered in a way no school or slogans could. His influence culturally and musically is integral to the story. I don’t know how another reviewer misses that. True, Tupac’s lyrics are not front and center, but choice lines are significant and more importantly, Tupac’s music and life is the connecting thread; it is the anchor on which D negotiates and focuses on where she is going. If you want to begin to understand why Tupac held the almost Godlike status, pay close attention to D. If you’re ignorant about Hip Hop and rap of Tupac’s generation, here’s an opening.

And the sub-plots are equally compelling. Neeka’s brother isn’t just jailed for a crime he doesn’t commit, but he is victimized because he is gay. And this gay man, is compassionate, talented, mentally balanced and a great role model. He cares about his family and making sure he isn’t a victim again. He won’t be in jail again. D isn’t just in a foster home, she has spent most of her life in is a series of foster homes, has never known her father and longs for her mother who struggles with alcohol.

This coming-of-age story isn’t just about three girls who could be any girls. It is relevant that they are African-American. Woodson never creates stock characters. And if you've read her other works, you know her characters cross class, economic, and a variety of family units. Each girl has experiences and views distinctively different. It is relevant that Woodson examines a variety of social and personal issues through relationships in a way that is intimate and endears the reader to the characters of the story.

Woodson writes with clarity and subtly in this genre of realistic fiction in a manner that commands our admiration and respect. She is a gifted writer who tackles complex topics with a style that challenges, inspires, informs and educates.

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