After Tupac and D Foster

( 21 )

Overview

The day D Foster enters Neeka and her best friend’s lives, the world opens up for them. Suddenly they’re keenly aware of things beyond their block in Queens, things that are happening in the world—like the shooting of Tupac Shakur—and in search of their Big Purpose in life. When—all too soon—D’s mom swoops in to reclaim her, and Tupac dies, they are left with a sense of how quickly things can change and how even all-too-brief connections can touch deeply.

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Overview

The day D Foster enters Neeka and her best friend’s lives, the world opens up for them. Suddenly they’re keenly aware of things beyond their block in Queens, things that are happening in the world—like the shooting of Tupac Shakur—and in search of their Big Purpose in life. When—all too soon—D’s mom swoops in to reclaim her, and Tupac dies, they are left with a sense of how quickly things can change and how even all-too-brief connections can touch deeply.

A Discussion Guide to After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson

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Editorial Reviews

Elizabeth Ward
…[a] slender, note-perfect novel.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

As she did in Featherswith the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Woodson here invokes the music of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, whose songs address the inequalities confronting many African-Americans. In 1994, the anonymous narrator is 11, and Tupac has been shot. Everyone in her safe Queens neighborhood is listening to his music and talking about him, even though the world he sings about seems remote to her. Meanwhile D, a foster child, meets the narrator and her best friend, Neeka, while roaming around the city by herself ("She's like from another planet. The Planet of the Free," Neeka later remarks). They become close, calling themselves Three the Hard Way, and Tupac's music becomes a soundtrack for the two years they spend together. Early on, when Tupac sings, "Brenda's Got a Baby," about a girl putting her baby in a trash can, D explains, "He sings about the things that I'm living," and Neeka and the narrator become aware of all the "stuff we ain't gonna know [about D]," who never does tell them where she lives or who her mother is. The story ends in 1996 with Tupac's untimely death and the reappearance of D's mother, who takes D with her, out of roaming range. Woodson delicately unfolds issues about race and less obvious forms of oppression as the narrator becomes aware of them; occasionally, the plot feels manipulated toward that purpose. Even so, the subtlety and depth with which the author conveys the girls' relationships lend this novel exceptional vividness and staying power. Ages 12-up. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
KLIATT - KLIATT Review
Woodson, Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist, has written some of our best YA fiction, and this novel is no exception. Her spare prose is like poetry, with a rhythm that reflects the speech patterns of the African American community. She has written of African American young people from every corner of our culture: small town, middle class, suburban, and urban. The three young teenage girls in After Tupac and D Foster live in an African American neighborhood in Queens. The narrator, with her single mother, is trying to make sense of her world and her friends. Her best friend Neeka is from a large, church-going family, with an older brother who is hoping for a basketball scholarship to Georgetown and another older brother, gay, who is locked up in prison for a crime he didn't commit. The narrator's other best friend is D, a foster child, who has green eyes and more freedom to roam the streets than her friends. The three adore Tupac and listen to his music all the time (it's 1995) and talk about his life and the danger he is in. Then D's white mother shows up and takes her away to upstate New York, and Tupac dies of gunshot wounds. The narrator's voice is an observer's voice, aching with loss and confusion, yet secure in her mother's love and in her closeness with Neeka. The reader can well imagine that 12 years later, that young girl is a woman who has gotten herself through college and is finding her own Big Purpose, as D promised. Age Range: Ages 12 to adult. REVIEWER: Claire Rosser (Vol. 42, No. 1)
Children's Literature - Denise Daley
Three the hard way. Three girls who are best friends. Two who were childhood friends and a third whose freedom is the envy of the others. The three eleven-year-old girls share a common admiration for the music of Tupac Shakur. All of them identify with Tupac's music and lyrics, but free-spirited D Foster seems to sadly connect with Tupac's music more than her friends. The two other girls slowly realize that they really do not know much about D Foster, and they gradually learn that her freedom is not something to be envied. Despite their seeming hardships (including, for one of the girls, having a brother in jail for a crime he did not commit), the girls begins to understand that having a stable home life makes them lucky. D Foster is a foster child who has been moved from home to home for most of her life, and she leaves her new friends as suddenly as she joined them. The shocking and sad passing of Tupac Shakur seemingly coincides with the demise of their friendship. Jacqueline Woodson, an award-winning author of many young adult books, has written another absorbing story that all readers—especially those who have felt the loss of a friendship—will identify with. Reviewer: Denise Daley
VOYA
As they search for their Big Purpose in life, one of the three girls who call themselves Three the Hard Way narrates the tale of Neeka, D, and herself in a Queens neighborhood during the mid-1990s as they become teenagers. The music and tribulations of Tupac weave in and out of the narrative, but most of all it is the story of D, who appears one day and becomes part of a tight-knit friendship. D's story emerges in carefully guarded bits and pieces: She has been bounced among foster homes, her mother taking her when she is able. D feels a connection with Tupac, whose songs about pain echo the craziness of D's life. When D is with her "girls," her life is the best it has ever been, but the summer before Tupac is killed, her mama comes to take her away. As always, Woodson's lyrical writing rings true. Not only does she understand the beauty, confusion, and pain of growing up but also the impact of important music as adolescents search for answers to life's conundrums. Woodson interweaves other food for thought: Neeka's oldest brother Tash is gay and in prison, and her second-oldest brother lives to play basketball. Neeka's family is large and noisy, but the narrator lives only with her mama. One of the most poignant scenes in the story is a family trip to visit Tash at prison. Woodson creates a thought-provoking story about the importance of acceptance and connections in life. Reviewer: Mary Ann Darby
School Library Journal

Gr 6-10- D Foster, Neeka, and an unnamed narrator grow from being 11 to 13 with Tupac Shakur's music, shootings, and legal troubles as the backdrop. Neeka and the narrator have lived on the same block forever and are like sisters, but foster child D shows up during the summer of 1994, while she is out "roaming." D immediately finds a place in the heart of the other girls, and the "Three the Hard Way" bond over their love of Tupac's music. It seems especially relevant to D, who sees truth in his lyrics, having experienced the hard life herself in group homes and with multiple foster families. Woodson's spare, poetic, language and realistic Queens, NY, street vernacular reveal a time and a relationship, each chapter a vignette depicting an event in the lives of the girls and evoking mood more than telling a story. In this urban setting, there are, refreshingly, caring adults and children playing on the street instead of drug dealers on every corner. Readers are right on the block with bossy mothers, rope-jumping girls, and chess-playing elders. With Tupac's name and picture on the cover, this slim volume will immediately appeal to teens, and the emotions and high-quality writing make it a book well worth recommending. By the end, readers realize that, along with the girls, they don't really know D at all. As she says, "I came on this street and y'all became my friends. That's the D puzzle." And readers will find it a puzzle well worth their time.-Kelly Vikstrom, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142413999
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/7/2010
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 99,054
  • Age range: 10 - 15 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.58 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Meet the Author

Jacqueline Woodson, winner of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults, is the author of Feathers, Newbery Honor winner Show Way, Miracle’s Boys (recipient of a Coretta Scott King Award and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize), Locomotion and Hush (both National Book Award finalists), among many others. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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Read an Excerpt

The summer before D Foster’s real mama came and took her away, Tupac wasn’t dead yet. He’d been shot five times—two in the head, two down by his leg and thing and one shot that went in his hand and came out the other side and went through a vein or something. All the doctors were saying he should have died and were bringing other doctors up to his room to show everybody what a medical miracle he was. That’s what they called him. A Medical Miracle. Like he wasn’t even a real person. Like he was just something to be looked at and turned this way and that way and poked at. Like he wasn’t Tupac.

D Foster showed up a few months before Tupac got shot that first time and left us the summer before he died. By the time her mama came and got her and she took one last walk on out of our lives, I felt like we’d grown up and grown old and lived a hundred lives in those few years that we knew her. But we hadn’t really. We’d just gone from being eleven to being thirteen. Three girls. Three the Hard Way. In the end, it was just me and Neeka again.

The first time Tupac got shot, it was November 1994. Cold as anything everywhere in the city and me, Neeka, D and everybody else was shivering our behinds through the winter with nobody thinking Pac was gonna make it. Then, right after he had some surgery, he checked himself out of the hospital even though the doctors was trying to tell him he wasn’t well enough to be doing that. That’s when everybody around here started talking about what a true gangsta he was. At least that’s what all the kids were thinking. The churchgoing people just kept saying he had God with him. Some of the parents were saying what they’d always been saying about him—that he was heading right to what he got because he was a bad example for kids, especially black kids like us. Crazy stuff about Tupac being a disgrace to the race and blah, blah, blah. The wannabe gangsta kids just kept saying Tupac was gonna get revenge on whoever did that to him.

But when I saw Tupac like that—coming out of the hospital, all skinny and small-looking in that wheelchair, big guards around him—I remember thinking, He ain’t gonna try to get revenge on nobody and he ain’t trying to be a disgrace to anybody either. Just trying to keep on. Even though he wasn’t smiling, I knew he was just happy and confused about still being alive.

Went on like that all winter long, then February came and they sent Tupac to jail for some dumb stuff and people started talking about that—the negative peeps talking about that’s where he needed to be and all the rest of us saying how messed up the law was when you didn’t look and act like people thought you should.

Spring came and Pac dropped his album from prison and this one song on it was real tight, so we all just listened to it and talked about how bad-ass Pac was—that he wasn’t even gonna let being in jail stop him from making his music. Me and Neeka and D had all turned twelve by then, but we still believed stuff—like that we’d grow up and marry beautiful rapper guys who’d buy us huge houses out in the country. We talked about how they’d be all crazy over us and if some other girl walked by who was fine or something, they wouldn’t even turn their heads to look because they’d be so in love with us and all. Stupid stuff like that.

In jail, Pac started getting clear about thug life, saying it wasn’t the right thing. He got all righteous about it and whatnot, and with all the rappers shooting on each other and stuff, it wasn’t hard to agree with him.

Time kept passing on that way. Things and people changing. First, D turned thirteen, then me and Neeka were right there behind her—us all turning into teenagers, getting body, getting tall, boys acting stupid over us.

Seems soon as we started settling into all that changing, D’s mama came—took her away from us.

And time kept on creeping.

Then Tupac went and died and it got me thinking about D. About the short time she was with us and about how you could know somebody real good but not know them at the same time. And it made me want to remember. Yeah, I guess that’s it. I guess that’s what I’m trying to do now. . . .

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 21 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 26, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Grandma Bev for TeensReadToo.com

    Woodson's engrossing story contains a lot of big issues, but the main theme is about friendship, and how unexpected changes come into our lives as we are touched by others. <BR/><BR/>AFTER TUPAC & D FOSTER is a tension-filled story of how two twelve-year-old girls meet an outsider and become friends with her. "D" is a foster child, and has adopted "Foster" as her last name. Abandoned by her mother, D Foster is searching for something that is missing in her life...perhaps a sense of belonging and permanence. The other two girls begin to explore the city with her, all of them searching for their "Big Purpose" in life. All the girls have their own set of family issues, and their own approach to solving these problems. <BR/><BR/>All three girls are great fans of the rapper, Tupac Shakur, and are dismayed when he is shot. They examine the meaning of his rap lyrics as they apply to their lives as African-Americans living in Queens, New York, and find that they have much in common with his ideas. <BR/><BR/>When D's birth mother shows up to reclaim her daughter and take her out of the lives of the other two girls, you can't help but hope that her life will be better this time -- while fearing that it will be a rerun of her past history. <BR/><BR/>Racism, homosexuality, and incarceration are touched upon in this slice-of-life story. Every teen can find something to relate to in this emotional story of how teens cope with life. There isn't a great deal of suspense, but Ms. Woodson's writing style is absorbing, and makes you wish the story was longer. It does give you cause to reflect on how your own friends and acquaintances have changed your life.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Loved it!

    Ms. Woodson makes us fall in love with her characters. They become your family and your friends. She makes you ache for them when they are sad. She makes you want to protect them when they are in danger. Like family, you love them despite their failings and sometimes because of them. Thank you for giving me a glimpse into another reality so removed from my own yet not really all that different. I recommend this book to adults as well as children. A wonderful book to read in the classroom.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2011

    So good

    I will want to read this

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 21, 2011

    d lives after 2pac

    set in the 90s pac was still alive d foster makes friends yet 2pac is her idol just like me and help too bad theres ni stories like this is a must for anyone

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    After Tupac and D Foster from Adrian Salome - LMS #4

    "After Tupac and D Foster" is a very interesting book to start my summer reading. I was very amazed when I first read the book because of the real facts. I would really recommend this book to a friend or someone who likes to read novels that are fun and interesting. I enjoyed the book because it was what could really happen to three friends that have a lot of common between them. Once I started to read it I was stared with the details, characters and settings. This is one of the greatest novels I have ever read. It has a lot of drama like when they found out that D's mom was a white women and her friends where very shocked . Also when Tupac got shoot twice and he went to the hospital and survived twice and then he went to jail for touching a girl's behind. Therefore Tupac didn't have that much luck the next time and he died.
    But then they realize that D's got more freedom than her friends. I would like to read another book from her like " The house you pass on the way" that is about Evangeline meets her adopted cousin Trout and they learn about each other and what they like and what they don't like and they help each other. Then I would like to read the book of "Lena " that when things get to bad in home Lena and Dion escape and go out to the road dressed like boys so things would be easier. I really think people should read this book because it's interesting and very fun reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2009

    After Tupac and D Foster from Adrian

    After Tupac and D Foster is a very interesting book to start. I was very amazed when i first read the book because it was interesting.I would really recommend this book to a friend or someone who likes to read novels that are fun and interesting. I liked the book because it was what could really happen to nthree friends that have a lot of common between them. but then they realize that d's got more freedoom then her friends.
    I would like to read another book from her like " The houseyou pass on the way" that is about Evangeline meets her adopted cousin Trout and theylearn about each other and sexy what they like and what they dont like and they help each other. Then i would like to read the book of " Lena " that when things get to bad in hohme Lena and Dion escape and go out to the road dressed like boys so things would be easier.
    I really think people should read this book because its really interesting and very fun to read. Once i started to read it I was very amazed with thje details, characters and settings. This is one of the greatests novels i readit has a lot of drama like when they found out that d's mom was a white mom and her friends where very shocked .

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2013

    Loved this book but confsed ....

    Did D die in the end ?

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  • Posted August 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Another great Woodson book

    Woodson, as always, delivers a profound story in a short and beautiful way. She has this talent of keeping you interested in the story itself while showing you the light and dark sides of life that many people face on a regular basis. All of the characters seem real, and you come to love them throughout the narrative, especially D, who is often so mysterious in one moment and deeply candid in the next that you feel both intimidated and comforted by her presence simultaneously.

    Also, as always, Woodson integrates challenging subplots, like Neeka's older brother, a young gay man who's been wrongfully imprisoned, young Black men disappearing off the street and in jail for what seems like no reason, and the despair surrounding the death of Tupac. It wasn't until after having read this book that I truly understood even a small portion of the gravity of Tupac's life and what he represented to the African American community at large (a little personal thanks to Woodson for touching on that theme).

    In many ways, Woodson seems to be a YA Lit representation of Toni Morrison or Alice Walker. It's not surprising that she keeps winning awards for her texts. They're the perfect balance of engaging and enlightening with a unique voice and excellent literary quality. I recommend this book to readers 12+.

    -Lindsey Miller, www.lindseylibrary.com

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  • Posted April 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    After Tupac & D Foster

    Woodson, J. (2008). After Tupac & D Foster. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.

    9780399246548

    Woodson uses beautiful prose to share the experiences of the narrator, Neeka and their new friend D, who is in foster care. They maintain their friendships as they experience life in their neighborhood and have discussions about friends and family. The three girls feel a special connection to the famous rapper Tupac Shakur as they grow to become teenagers. Time flows as a backdrop and the various experiences of Tupac being shot, imprisoned and reemerging serve as some of the strongest markers of time.

    The tensions of After Tupac & D Foster are subtle. Most of them are shared through conversations on the girls' front stoops in Queens as they consider discrimination, boys, the justice system, their families, Neeka's homosexual brother and their own futures.

    The character voices are strong and thought provoking. Woodson manages to touch on a bit of the academic theory of Deconstruction (my fave!), with understandable descriptions. But I did feel that the characters' search for their Big Purpose was lost throughout most of the story.

    Activities to do with the book:

    A teacher could take this book in several different directions. If a teacher were using this book with younger middle grade students, he or she could emphasize the girls' search for their Big Purpose and connect it to other stories, like The Higher Power of Lucky, while still having discussions about race, gender, family and education. This would be a good book to show how a writer can say a lot with a few seemingly simple descriptions.

    On the other hand, although the protagonists are only 13 at the end of the text, it deals with issues that are relevant to teens. If a teacher wanted to emphasize the treatment of African Americans by the justice system, the book could be paired with Myers's Monster.

    Other more general options include exploring Tupac's life and poetry or the treatment of homosexuality, gender, deconstruction, having a friend leave, and family in the 1990s.


    Favorite Quotes:

    "D Foster showed up a few months before Tupac got shot that first time and left us the summer before he died. By the time her mama came and got her and she took one last walk on out of our lives, I felt like we'd grown up and grown old and lived a hundred lives in those few years that we knew her. But we hadn't really. We'd just gone from being eleven to being thirteen. Three girls. Three the Hard Way. In the end, it was just me and Neeka again" (p. 2).

    "Maybe, while he was in jail, Tupac started thinking about his Big Purpose. That's what D called it-our Big Purpose. She said everybody's got one and it's just that we gotta figure out what it is and the go have it" (p. 7).

    "Me and Neeka had bought matching jean jackets with white stitching on the pockets for when school started and we'd worn them that day with these brown velvet pants we had. We'd walk up and down the block thinking we were bad, but we were just hot in our fall gear" (p. 23).

    "I watched her for a minute to see if she understood about gray areas. I'd just learned it myself and was trying it out" (p. 26).

    For more of my reviews, visit sjkessel.blogspot.com.

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