The House You Pass on the Way

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9780385321891: The House You Pass on the Way

Thirteen-year-old Staggerlee used to be called Evangeline, but she took on a fiercer name. She's always been different--set apart by the tragic deaths of her grandparents in an anti-civil rights bombing, by her parents' interracial marriage, and by her family's retreat from the world. This summer she has a new reason to feel set apart--her confused longing for her friend Hazel. When cousin Trout comes to stay, she gives Staggerlee a first glimpse of her possible future selves and the world beyond childhood.

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About the Author:

Born February 12 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. A former drama therapist for runaways and homeless children in New York City, she now writes full-time and has received The Kenyon Review Award for Literary Excellence in Fiction. Though she spends most of her time writing, Woodson also enjoys reading the works of emerging writers, encouraging young people to write, heated political conversation with her friends, and sewing. At one time, she made most of her own clothing, but now she makes mostly scarves and quilts for her friends.
Jacqueline Woodson began to consider becoming a writer when she was chosen to be the literary editor of a magazine in the fifth grade. Eventually, three books helped convince her to pursue a writing career: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Daddy Was a Numbers-Runner by Louise Meriwether, and Ruby by Rosa Guy. Before reading those books, Woodson thought that only books featuring mainstream, white characters or works by William Shakespeare constituted valid literature. But in those three books, Woodson saw parts of herself and her life, and realized that books could be about people like her; and she knew she wanted to write them.
Now a critically acclaimed author, Woodson writes about characters from a variety of races, ethnic groups, and social classes. Woodson says, "There are all kinds of people in the world, and I want to help introduce readers to the kinds of people they might not otherwise meet." Woodson's books also feature strong female characters. Some are based on her friends, who she says are "really amazing people who constantly challenge themselves to make a difference in the world." Woodson often writes about friendship between girls, as she did in her trilogy about Maizon, and I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This. "Girls rarely get discussed in books and films," she says, "and I want to do 'girl stories' that show strong, independent people. I think girls are often disregarded in this society and taught to be dependent. I want to show young people that there are other ways to be."
The House You Pass on the Way is a moving story of growing up different. It explores questions about emerging sexuality with sensitivity and respect and examines racial tension and the legacy of violence. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly noted, "[Woodson] gently probes questions regarding racism and homosexuality in this poignant tale about growing pains and the ongoing process of self-discovery." Also in a starred review, The Horn Book wrote of The House You Pass on the Way, "[A] reflective book.... The reader feels grateful that Woodson has whispered her lyrical story to us...." School Library Journal remarked that Woodson's novel is, "Richly layered.... Notable both for its quality and for the out-of-the-way places it goes."
Woodson's latest book, Lena (April 1998, Delacorte Press), is the companion to the Coretta Scott King Honor Book, I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly claims Lena is "soulful, wise...this taut story never loses its grip on the reader."

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

  An Excerpt from The House You Pass on the Way

        Her father had married a white woman. That's how Sweet Gum people had
        talked about it, talked about her mother. Not to their faces, but it got
        back to them. The whole family did well at hiding the sting of townspeople's
        words. It was not what they whispered that stung. But how they
        whispered. Yes, Mama was white and that made all of them--Charlie Horse
        and Dotti and Battle, Hope and Staggerlee--part white. The only mixed-race
        family in Sweet Gum, maybe in all of Calmuth County. No, it wasn't
        what
people said, for that part was true. But Mama was more than
        ìwhite.î She was Mama, quiet and easygoing. She kept to herself. When
        she smiled, her whole face brightened, and tiny dimples showed at the
        edge of her lips. Why was white the word that hung on people's
        lips? At school, when the kids talked about her mama, they whispered the
        word or said, "You're mama's white!" and it sounded loud and
        ugly, like something was wrong with Mama. And if something was wrong with
        Mama, then that meant that something was wrong with all of them. . . .

        And when people asked her what it felt like to be both black and white,
        she didn't have an answer for them. Most times, she just shrugged and
        looked away or kicked her hiking boot across the ground and mumbled something
        like "fine." Her family had never talked about it, the way they hadn't
        talked about a lot of things lately.

        

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