Hush by Jacqueline WoodsonHush by Jacqueline Woodson


byJacqueline Woodson

Paperback | January 7, 2010

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A powerfully moving novel from a three-time Newbery Honor-winning author

Jacqueline Woodson is the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

Evie Thomas is not who she used to be. Once she had a best friend, a happy home and a loving grandmother living nearby. Once her name was Toswiah.

Now, everything is different. Her family has been forced to move to a new place and change their identities. But that's not all that has changed. Her once lively father has become depressed and quiet. Her mother leaves teaching behind and clings to a new-found religion. Her only sister is making secret plans to leave.

And Evie, struggling to find her way in a new city where kids aren't friendly and the terrain is as unfamiliar as her name, wonders who she is.

Jacqueline Woodson weaves a fascinating portrait of a thoughtful young girl's coming of age in a world turned upside down

A National Book Award Finalist
Jacqueline Woodson ( is the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and she received the 2018 Children's Literature Legacy Award. She is the 2014 National Book Award Winner for her New York Times bestselling memoir BROWN GIRL DREAMING, which was also a recipient of the Coretta Scott K...
Title:HushFormat:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.59 inPublished:January 7, 2010Publisher:Penguin Young Readers GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0142415510

ISBN - 13:9780142415511


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Cried! Be careful reading this in public, may be overwhelmed by tears.
Date published: 2017-02-22

Read from the Book

CHAPTER 4In fifth grade our teacher asked us to write about the most wonderful thing we’d ever seen. I sat in class tapping my pencil against my head trying to remember the colors of butterflies’ wings and how the deep blue-green water of Glenwood Springs made you think of something that went on forever. But none of the things that came to my mind was the prettiest. When I started writing, it was about my father, the year he won the police department’s Medal for Bravery for rescuing a mother and her baby son from a man who was holding them hostage. He’d been a cop all of my life, and I had never really thought much about what he did or what it meant. On the morning of the ceremony, my father wore his other uniform—a dark jacket with a leather belt, brass buttons and gold epaulets at the shoulders. When he walked into the living room, my sister and I stopped fighting over the TV remote and stared at him. We had never seen him dressed this way, and he looked like the tallest, proudest, most beautiful man that ever lived. Why are you copper pennies sitting there with your mouths opened? he said laughing. You act like you’ve never seen me before in your life.And we hadn’t—Not like that. Not standing there looking like someone who would protect us from the world ending. Someone who could, if he had to, push us behind him then stop an oncoming bullet with his hand. Daddy…, my sister said, you look awesome.That morning, as I sat there between Cameron and Mama in the audience listening to the lieutenant go on about my father’s bravery, I felt like I was someone special. Like all of us were special. Things fall apart. I know this now. Sometimes it happens fast—like the time my sister came down wrong on her ankle and missed a whole season of cheerleading. What I remember is her sitting in her room every night, crying. Or the time my mother cut her finger with a steak knife. While my father rushed her to the hospital, Cameron and I were left to finish dinner, get it on the table and sit there for two hours, staring at our food. Scared that Mama would come back one finger short of the hand she had left with. But sometimes things fall apart slowly. When the lieutenant pinned that medal to my father’s chest, it was the beginning of the Green ending. Months later, my father would say When I saw you all sitting in that front row cheering me on, some little seed started to grow in my brain. He said it was a seed of faith in his family and the Denver Police Department. A seed that made him believe in the possibility of perfection . . . and trust . . . and loyalty. As my father looked out at us from the stage while reporters flashed pictures and other cops shook his hand, he smiled and winked at me. I winked back, not knowing that what was growing in his mind was a seed of justice that would one day lead to the biggest decision he’d ever have to make in his life. Mama raised her hand to her lips and blew Dad a kiss. Then we were being called up to the stage, all of us, hugging Daddy and smiling for the press. Perfect, one reporter said. Absolutely perfect. And for years, I believed we were. The night after the shooting, I came downstairs to find my father sitting on the couch staring into the darkness. I sat beside him and we talked quietly—about school and friends and Cameron and Mama. We talked around the shooting until he made me go back to bed. After that, I came downstairs every night, after Mama and Cameron had gone to bed. Maybe it was because I insisted on sitting awhile in the dark with him night after night. Maybe it was because I was his baby daughter, the one who’d still be there after my big sister was gone. Or maybe it was just because he needed someone to talk to. For whatever reason, my father began to reveal what happened in bits and pieces. What I learned in those late-night talks was that my father had witnessed a murder. A fifteen-year-old boy had been killed by two cops who were close to our family. My father wouldn’t tell me their names at first, but he said over and over, Something’s got to be done, Toswiah. It isn’t justice. It isn’t right.I knew something had to be done, but more than that I knew if the cops were in my daddy’s precinct, they’d been at one of my birthday parties, had given me a lift home from school, had pulled my braid at some point in my life and handed me a toy or book or lollipop. I’d grown up with the cops in Denver and couldn’t imagine any of them shooting a boy. Again and again I saw the ghost-boy falling but couldn’t see the face of the cop who held the gun. Again and again I tried to think of which cop it could be until the hand holding the gun followed me into my dreams, to school, even to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The boy was an honor student, the only child of a high school English teacher. A single mom. The boy was only in tenth grade but was already getting mail from colleges. My father knew all this from newspaper reports he’d read and research he’d done. Even though the cops had said they thought the boy reached for a gun, my father knew it wasn’t true. As my father talked about the boy, he became more real. I didn’t know his name, but I felt like I didn’t have to. He was black and I was black, and maybe somewhere along the way we would’ve met. Maybe we would’ve become friends. I imagined the boy holding a basketball above his head, saying Like this, Toswiah. Just let it roll off your fingers and fly. I imagined us riding bikes around the neighborhood, stopping to buy ice- cream cones double-dipped in rainbow sprinkles. When he smiled, his whole face melted into something soft and amazing. People waved and smiled back. People called out to us. Hey Raymond! Hey Toswiah! I imagined his mother walking into his empty room and calling his name, standing there all night long waiting for him to answer. My father said, What would you do, T?I shrugged, and stared down at my hands. What’s the right thing, Daddy?Exactly, he said, frowning into the darkness. He sighed and kissed my head. Both choices seem so damn wrong..Then he sent me off to bed. I lay in bed and stared up at the ceiling all night. I thought about my father—how the love I felt for him some days made my throat hollow out. I thought about his smile, the way it always came, shy and slow, and the way his eyes lit up when me and my sister appeared suddenly, riding our bikes alongside of his patrol car. I thought about the way he used to braid my hair on Sundays, how his hands felt soft and sure. Wherever he went, I’d go. I couldn’t imagine a world, a life, a day without him. I closed my eyes then, trying to imagine what it felt like to watch someone die, someone innocent and scared. Pictures flashed in and out of my brain—that boy crying out then falling; my father running to him; the other cops standing there, their hands dumbly hanging at their sides. The echo of the gunshots. Everyone’s surprise. Outside my window, the moon hung down low, close to the mountains. Every now and then, a cloud moved past it. Cops murdering. Cops murdering a black kid. White cops murdering a black kid. My father turning at the first shot to see the kid standing there, his arms raised above his head. The second and third shots. The kid falling. My father’s face, first surprise, then anger, then fear maybe—that his friends could do this, could be so afraid of a black boy that they could shoot without thinking, without remembering that he, Officer Green, was black, that black wasn’t a dangerous thing. "No . . . ," my father said softly, the way he says it now when he sits alone at the window. "God, please, no.…" Outside my window, the night got darker, then slowly faded to gray. Officer Randall, my father said slowly when I asked him for the fifth time who the cops were. Randall and Dennis, Toswiah. That’s who killed the boy.As he said their names, the floor began to slide out from beneath me. Mr. Randall and Mr. Dennis. Men I had known my whole life. Officer Dennis, who always had a silly joke to tell (Hey Toswiah, what do you get when you cross a skunk and peanut butter? Something very smelly sticking to the roof of your mouth!) and Officer Randall, who was tall and gray-eyed and had a son named Joseph, who Cameron was in love with. "He came out of nowhere," Officer Randall had said, his hands shaking, his face crumbling with the horror of what he’d just done. After a moment, he added, "He startled us, Green." Officer Dennis was there, turning toward my father, easing his gun back into the holster, his voice unsure. "We thought he had a gun. He was going for something." Then cursing, his bottom lip starting to quiver with the weight of it all. "He was facing you," my father said. "He was coming toward you with his hands up." Then Officer Dennis’s voice drops just the tiniest bit. His eyes narrow. I swallow. I’ve known Officer Dennis all my life, but in this moment, I don’t know him at all. "We thought he had a gun!"

Bookclub Guide

ABOUT JACQUELINE WOODSONBorn on February 12th in Columbus, Ohio, Jacqueline Woodson grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York and graduated from college with a B.A. in English. She now writes full-time and has recently received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. Her other awards include a Newbery Honor, a Coretta Scott King award, 2 National Book Award finalists, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Although she spends most of her time writing, Woodson also enjoys reading the works of emerging writers and encouraging young people to write, spending time with her friends and her family, and sewing. Jacqueline Woodson currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.RELATED TITLESDancerby Lorri HewettStephanie works hard to pursue her dream of becoming a professional ballerina while coping with the pressures of her family expectations and those at her mostly white private school.Lives of Our Ownby Lorri HewettAfrican American Shawna and white schoolmate Kari defy the unspoken social standards of their small town as they work together to reveal a hidden community secret.Money Hungryby Sharon FlakeA period of homelessness and poverty has made Raspberry Hill determined to hoard as much cash as possible.Monsterby Walter Dean MyersAspiring filmmaker Steve Harmon copes with his arrest for murder by relating his story as if it were a movie script.145th Streetby Walter Dean MyersThe highs and lows of one Harlem neighborhood are explored in ten stories.Othello: A Novelby Julius LesterThis novelization of Shakespeare's classic play revisits the story of interracial love and tragedy.Tears of a Tigerby Sharon DraperAndy Jackson, feels responsible for the death of his good friend, Robert, in a drunk driving accident.Zackby William BellZack, the son of a African American mother and a Jewish father, experiences racial rejection for the first time when his family moves from Toronto to a small college town, and feels a need to connect with his family history.OTHER BOOKS BY JACQUELINE WOODSONLast Summer with MaizonReissue available Summer 2002HC: 0-399-23755-0PB:TKBetween Madison and PalmettoReissue available Fall 2002HC: 0-399-23757-7PB: TKMaizon at Blue HillReissue available Fall 2002HC: 0-399-23576-9PB: TKAN INTERVIEW WITH JACQUELINE WOODSONWhy do you write for young adults?I think it's an important age. My young adult years had the biggest impact on me of any period in my life and I remember so much about them. When I need to access the physical memories and/or emotional memories of that period in my life, it isn't such a struggle. And kids are great.The issue of identity is central to the three books under discussion, yet each seems to approach this topic differently. Was this a deliberate choice on your part? What does each of these stories say about the teen characters and their struggles to define themselves?Identity has always been an important and very relevant issue for me. For a lot of reasons, I've been 'assigned' many identities. From a very young age, I was being told what I was—black, female, slow, fast, a tomboy, stubborn—the list goes on and on. And this happens with many children as they are trying to become. So that by the time we're young adults, no wonder we're a mess!! There are so many ways we come to being who we are, so many ways in which we search for our true selves, so many varying circumstances around that search. No two people are alike but every young person is looking for definition. My journey as a writer has been to explore the many ways one gets to be who they are or who they are becoming.Where did you get the idea for Hush?Some years ago I read an article in the New York Times Magazine that started the seed for Hush. I did a good bit of research and just thought about the story for a long time before I started writing it. I kept asking "Who would I be if this happened to me? What would I have left?" It was devastating to think about but at the same time, it really made me grateful for all that I do have—all the people in my life who have been with me since childhood, my family, my pets, everything.What do you do differently, if anything, when you tell a story from a male perspective?When I'm writing from a male perspective, I try to imagine myself as a boy and I really try to remember as much as I can about the guys I knew and know. It's very different than creating girl characters but I love the challenge of it.Although these are very different stories, they each reflect what can happen to African Americans when they are impacted by the criminal justice system. What do you want your readers to understand about this?I don't really know what I want readers to understand. I know what it helps me to understand—that the criminal justice system has historically not worked for African-Americans, that the percentage of people of color as compared to whites in jail, killed by cops, racially profiled and constantly singled out is unbalanced. I want the system to be different and the only way that it can change is if the way our society looks at race changes. And the only way that can happen is if people really start paying attention and making a decision to create change.DISCUSSION QUESTIONSDescribe Evie's life in Denver before her father witnessed the shooting. Why is her real name so important to her? How did her mother become involved with religion? Why? Why does her grandmother refuse to leave Denver? Why is it so important for Evie's father to testify in this case? What other actions could he have taken? Contrast Evie's home in Denver with her family's new home. Each member of the family leaves something important behind when they are forced to leave Denver. Describe what each leaves behind and why it matters. Why does Evie decide to join the track team and why does she keep it a secret? Anna decides to try to gain admittance to a college that will accept her before she graduates. Why is this important to her? What impact will this have on her family? On Evie? How are Evie and her father able to reach each other again? What understanding does Evie gain when she is able to finally speak openly with her father again?