After Tupac & D. Foster, by Jacqueline Woodson

After Tupac and D. FosterAward: Newberry Honor Book of 2009

Neeka and her best friend, (whose name is never mentioned), have lived their entire lives confined to one block in Queens, New York and dream of having the freedom of seeing more of the world. One day, D Foster, a wanderer who rides the bus to wherever she pleases, comes into their lives. At first, the girls are envious of D’s freedom and worldly knowledge and are unaware that D wants nothing more than to have a life like theirs, but envy quickly gives way to fascination and curiosity. The three girls form a bond of friendship that strengthens and is empowered by their love and various interpretations of the music and life of Tupac Shakur.  Throughout the story, the girls discover that life is multifaceted, painful, and unfair; while hope lives in their bonds of friendship and family.

When I read this book, my initial reaction was disappointment because, apparently, there were no surprises. The end of the book is told in the very first sentence, followed by a summary of the events that led to Neeka and her friend’s friendship with D, juxtaposed with Tupac Shakur’s first attack, survival, and ending with his death. However, as I continued to read, I found that the book did hold a few surprises, including D’s very tumultuous past and uncertain future.

Unfortunately, the story is suddenly interrupted by a subplot that overpowers the book for a few chapters and introduces a stereotypical gay character. I ended up feeling disappointment again. Though it’s endearing that the girls will defend him against all odds, his homosexuality is not a subject open for discussion, nor is he allowed to be ‘obvious’ in front of his younger siblings. The girls are constantly trying to gain their freedom yet they deny the personal freedom of this character by ignoring “it” altogether.

Overall, the book is a fair read and inspires the reader to find out more about Tupac’s music, life and experiences, but it would have benefited by eliminating the subplot.

(I was so curious about what the characters were talking about when they were sharing their feelings about Tupac’s music videos, that I went to YouTube to see them for myself. You can find “Brenda’s Got A Baby” here, and “Dear Mama” here.)

Have you read this book?

What are your thoughts?
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