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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that After Tupac and D Foster, by National Book Award, Newbery Honor, and Coretta Scott King Author Award winner Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming), is a coming-of-age friendship story of three tween girls in a close-knit African American neighborhood in Queens, New York. There are references to drugs, HIV, sex, racism, and violence, though nothing is described or done by the main characters. Tupac is jailed for sexual abuse, and there are frequent references to his multiple shootings and death.
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What's the story?
In AFTER TUPAC AND D FOSTER, it's 1994 and the unnamed narrator and her best friend, Neeka, meet foster child D Foster when she wanders into their close-knot neighborhood in Queens, New York. The three 11-year-old girls become inseparable for the next two years, bonding over Tupac Shakur's music. Then everything changes when Tupac is killed and D Foster's real mother takes her away.
Is it any good?
This story of friends united by their love of music has the power to open minds and bring together readers of vastly different experiences. One of the many purposes of literature is to let readers see themselves in the characters and see how people like them deal with the joys and difficulties of life. Many young readers will find themselves on the pages of After Tupac and D Foster. Author Jacqueline Woodson depicts a time, a place, and a friendship that all feel very real, and she uses the device of their love of rapper Tupac Shakur to make their experience universal. Any kid who has loved Shakur, or any musician, and used that person or group's music to help them figure out and get through their lives, will relate.
Another purpose of literature is to expose readers to lives different from their own, to open closed minds and broaden experience. Hanging her story on Shakur allows Woodson to accomplish both purposes. Tupac Shakur was one of those figures who divided America into two mutually uncomprehending groups -- those who loved him and found personal meaning in his work, and those who dismissed him as a gangsta who reaped what he sowed. Woodson opens up the world of the former group to the latter, who, after reading this, may want to reassess their hasty judgments and perhaps learn more.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the main characters feel about recording artist Tupac Shakur in After Tupac and D Foster. Why is Tupac so important to the characters? How does he affect their lives?
Have you ever had a friendship revolve around a shared love of a recording artist or movie star? How did your both being fans affect the friendship?
Have you ever known someone in the foster care system? How would their life be different from yours? Do you think you might share the same taste in music?
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