After Tupac and D Foster


Jacqueline Woodson

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Is it easy to mark the moments when your life makes an important turn? Can you remember that first time when things became before and after? That person or event that you understood changed you forever? Jacqueline Woodson can, in this book that seems so redolent of personal memory that I can only think she is writing about herself.

The unnamed narrator and her best friend and neighbor Neeka hang out on the stoop in their quiet Queens neighborhood. Their mothers don't let them go beyond the block, and – at 11 years old – the girls are chafing under the restrictions. One evening, a stranger comes around the corner, walks up to them and says hi. She is D Foster, and she spends her free time wandering the city – far from the not-so-watchful eye of her foster mother. The three girls discover a mutual love and appreciation of the gansta rapper Tupac Shakur, who – that summer – while on trial for rape, is shot. Far from being a predator, the girls think Tupac is a hero to African Americans as he uses his music to call attention to the racism and inequitable treatment of black people in American society.

Over the next two years, the girls grow closer and more adventurous – ultimately disobeying their mothers and taking off with D Foster to see more of New York City. Even then, the narrator says, we didn't know much about D – she didn't talk much about herself. But one day, D disappears. And not long after that, Tupac is shot and killed. And Neeka and her friend know after Tupac and D Foster their lives will be different somehow.

Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. Do you agree with D that we all have a Big Purpose? Why or why not? If so, what do you think yours might be?
  2. Why do you think D Foster, Neeka and the narrator became close friends so quickly? What made them good friends? Do you think it's odd that they were so connected but didn't know basic things about D, like where she lived or her phone number? Why or why not?
  3. Why do you think the characters felt so connected to and affected by Tupac?
  4. Why does the narrator feel like "her two selves had come together" when she, Neeka and D snuck out to the amphitheater in the park?
  5. Why do Neeka's and the narrator's mothers forbid them to leave the block even though they are teenagers?
  6. The novel's title is After Tupac and D Foster; what do you feel will happen next for Neeka and the narrator? How did D Foster affect them and their way of seeing the world?

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