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READERS GUIDE

Questions and Topics for Discussion

ABOUT JACQUELINE WOODSON

Born on February 12th in Columbus, Ohio, Jacqueline Woodson grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York and graduated from college with a B.A. in English. She now writes full-time and has recently received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. Her other awards include a Newbery Honor, a Coretta Scott King award, 2 National Book Award finalists, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Although she spends most of her time writing, Woodson also enjoys reading the works of emerging writers and encouraging young people to write, spending time with her friends and her family, and sewing. Jacqueline Woodson currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.


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OTHER BOOKS BY JACQUELINE WOODSON

Last Summer with Maizon
Reissue available Summer 2002
HC: 0-399-23755-0
PB:TK

Between Madison and Palmetto
Reissue available Fall 2002
HC: 0-399-23757-7
PB: TK

Maizon at Blue Hill
Reissue available Fall 2002
HC: 0-399-23576-9
PB: TK


AN INTERVIEW WITH JACQUELINE WOODSON

Why do you write for young adults?

I think it’s an important age. My young adult years had the biggest impact on me of any period in my life and I remember so much about them. When I need to access the physical memories and/or emotional memories of that period in my life, it isn’t such a struggle. And kids are great.

The issue of identity is central to the three books under discussion, yet each seems to approach this topic differently. Was this a deliberate choice on your part? What does each of these stories say about the teen characters and their struggles to define themselves?

Identity has always been an important and very relevant issue for me. For a lot of reasons, I’ve been ‘assigned’ many identities. From a very young age, I was being told what I wasblack, female, slow, fast, a tomboy, stubbornthe list goes on and on. And this happens with many children as they are trying to become. So that by the time we’re young adults, no wonder we’re a mess!! There are so many ways we come to being who we are, so many ways in which we search for our true selves, so many varying circumstances around that search. No two people are alike but every young person is looking for definition. My journey as a writer has been to explore the many ways one gets to be who they are or who they are becoming.

Where did you get the idea for Hush?

Some years ago I read an article in the New York Times Magazine that started the seed for Hush. I did a good bit of research and just thought about the story for a long time before I started writing it. I kept asking “Who would I be if this happened to me? What would I have left?” It was devastating to think about but at the same time, it really made me grateful for all that I do haveall the people in my life who have been with me since childhood, my family, my pets, everything.

What do you do differently, if anything, when you tell a story from a male perspective?

When I’m writing from a male perspective, I try to imagine myself as a boy and I really try to remember as much as I can about the guys I knew and know. It’s very different than creating girl characters but I love the challenge of it.

Although these are very different stories, they each reflect what can happen to African Americans when they are impacted by the criminal justice system. What do you want your readers to understand about this?

I don’t really know what I want readers to understand. I know what it helps me to understandthat the criminal justice system has historically not worked for African-Americans, that the percentage of people of color as compared to whites in jail, killed by cops, racially profiled and constantly singled out is unbalanced. I want the system to be different and the only way that it can change is if the way our society looks at race changes. And the only way that can happen is if people really start paying attention and making a decision to create change.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  1. Describe Evie’s life in Denver before her father witnessed the shooting. Why is her real name so important to her?
     
  2. How did her mother become involved with religion? Why?
     
  3. Why does her grandmother refuse to leave Denver?
     
  4. Why is it so important for Evie’s father to testify in this case? What other actions could he have taken?
     
  5. Contrast Evie’s home in Denver with her family’s new home.
     
  6. Each member of the family leaves something important behind when they are forced to leave Denver. Describe what each leaves behind and why it matters.
     
  7. Why does Evie decide to join the track team and why does she keep it a secret?
     
  8. Anna decides to try to gain admittance to a college that will accept her before she graduates. Why is this important to her? What impact will this have on her family? On Evie?
     
  9. How are Evie and her father able to reach each other again? What understanding does Evie gain when she is able to finally speak openly with her father again?

 
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