Saturday, May 7, 2011

After Tupac & D. Foster

Written By: Jacqueline Woodson

The story of After Tupac & D. Foster, written by Jacqueline Woodson, takes place in the early nineties in a close-knit African American neighborhood in Queens, New York.  Two girls, Neeka and the story’s narrator, are eleven years old and have been best friends all of their lives.  The summer they meet D. Foster, they begin to learn more about themselves, each other, and the world around them as they grow to be inseparable over the course of the two-year friendship with D.

Woodson sets this realistic fiction novel during the time when Tupac was still alive.  She cues readers in on the life of Tupac and how he was tragically killed throughout the plot of the story.  For example, at one point, the narrator and her mama discuss an article written in the Daily News about Tupac.  They discuss how Tupac will do time for charges filed against him by some girl.  I was able to locate an article in the NY Times from 1993 that seems to describe the same incident—minus the perspective of the African American community.

D. Foster does not know who she is at the beginning of the story.  She does not know who her mother is and is not sure whether she has any brothers or sisters.  She calls herself D. Foster, because she is a foster child.  D. relates to Tupac; however, and his music. The narrator reflects, “You listen to Tupac’s songs and you know he’s singing about people like D, about all the kids whose mamas went away, about all the injustice.  Brenda throwing away her baby, the cops beating some brother down, the hungry kids, sad kids, kids who got big dreams nobody’s listening to.  Like over all that time and distance he looked right across the bridge into Queens, New York—right into Desiree’s eyes.  Strange how he saw her.”

Although the story is only 152 pages long, Woodson manages to incorporate a lot of tough subtopics that were and still are a reality of today.  For example, Neeka’s brother, a homosexual, was wrongfully put into prison because of a crime he was framed for.  Woodson describes the prison through the narrator’s perspective, “The loudest sound in the world is the soft click of prison gates locking behind you.  Maybe it’s how final it is—the loud slam of the gate, then the quick, gentle click.  Then the scary feeling of it all being forever.”  Both Neeka’s and the narrator’s fathers are both absent, and their mothers both work hard to support their families.  In addition, D. Foster is biracial, and the young girls comment on her green eyes and light hair.

I was around the same age as D. Foster, Neeka, and the narrator when this story took place in Queens.  In fact, I only lived about forty minutes away from the girls—but, from what I can remember, my life seemed completely different.  At the time, I am sure I did not know who Tupac was nor was I probably able to listen to his music.  Meanwhile, these three girls listened to his music and it meant the world to them.  Although I could not personally relate to most events in the story, I felt emotionally connected to the characters, which made the story both interesting and engaging.

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