Woodson, Jacqueline. 2008. After Tupac and D Foster. New York, NY: Putnam Young Adult. ISBN 0399246541
After Tupac and D Foster is a book about the friendship and connections between three girls: Neeka, D Foster, and the narrator. The three girls known as Three The Hard Way have a passion for Tupac’s music and over the years his songs have helped them through tough times. The book follows the girls as they meet D, a foster child, when she expectantly arrives in their neighborhood one day until D moves away not long after Tupac gets shot.
After Tupac and D Foster is set in urban New York and chronicles a deep friendship. The friendship that these young girls experience is not unlike any friendship the reader could have with someone. Also, readers may be able to identify with the girl’s bond to each other and to music. Many readers may have a song or an artist that makes them feel a certain way. The girls relate to Tupac and connect his songs to things in their own lives like prejudice and family members in jail. This makes it easy for readers to understand how D, Neeka, and the narrator feel about Tupac Shakur. However, the book isn’t really about Tupac or music. While today’s youth may not be able to identify with a love of Tupac as much as another more current musician, it isn’t really about Tupac as it as about a bond that can bring you together. I remember the way my friends and I felt when the singer Aaliyah died in August of 2001 and then a few months later when Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez died in April of 2002. And even more recently, how everyone felt when Heath Ledger died in early 2008. It is because of these people and their subsequent deaths, that I remember certain events more vividly because I remember them, how their work made me feel, or who I was with at the time. That is what this book is about; it is about growing up and growing away. You know what the characters are going through and you understand it even if you didn’t grow up in Queens listening to Tupac because it is natural, it is authentic, it is believable and it feels so real.
I included a lot of my personal feelings above with the mention of Aaliyah, Lisa Lopez, and Heath Ledger but overall this book is not my cup of tea. However, I can see how it would appeal to young readers. I’ve also seen rave reviews about Woodson’s book Feathers and the success of doing a feature author display with these two books. I guess this book is really hit or miss but don’t read it just because you think it will have a large Tupac reference, the title is slightly misleading.
Newbery Honor Book
ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Josette Frank Award
“Woodson has created moments of humanity that the girls respond to with whole hearts.” They wear innocence like polished armor, and it shines.” – New York Times Book Review
“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” – School Library Journal
This book touches on tough issues from growing up in a minority in what can be a prejudicial society, violence, losing a friend, adoption and foster care. Another book by the same author that also tackles sensitive subject is Feathers (ISBN 978-0-399-23989-2). Like After Tupac, some of the main characters in Feathers are also African American. Some of the issues in this book include race, religion, understanding, tolerance, and segregation.