Monday, March 14, 2011

The House Your Pass On The Way, Jacqueline Woodson

Title:  The House You Pass On The Way
Author:  Jacqueline Woodson
Publisher:  Laurel Leaf
Year:  1999
Pages:  114
Genre:  Realistic Fiction
Themes:  Coming of Age, Sexual Orientation, Identity, Friendship
Age Level:  6th through 9th Grade

In this understated story set in a small, mostly African-American community in the South, Staggerlee Canan is shunned by her peers because her mother is white. This is not the sole cause of her isolation, however. She has a secret. In sixth grade, she had kissed another girl. Rejected by that friend, Staggerlee has no one to talk to about her sexual feelings until her adopted cousin, Trout, visits for the summer when both girls are 14. Both wonder if they are gay, but sexual identity is really only one of the things that troubles them. Their platonic intimacy is the intense kind shared by friends who see themselves as different from the crowd. Asked by Trout to say whether she's black or white, Staggerlee replies, "I'm me. That's all." (From School Library Journal)

Despite the slim nature of this book, it carries a surprising amount of weight.   Staggerlee is an interesting character-the grandchild of famous grandparents, unable to take advantage of the freedom from oppression that they fought for.  She struggles to understand what it means to be bi-racial in a mostly black community, where the other kids assume she thinks she is better than they are.  The fact that she has a secret about her feelings towards other girls contributes to her isolation.  When Trout comes into the picture, she has finally found someone "like her".  But when Trout leaves, and the intensity of their frienship starts to lessen, Staggerlee is left wondering if and when she will truly be able to just be herself.  This book would be great for teaching about multi-racial identity or sexual orientation specifically, or tryiing to find your place in the world in general.

 Jacqueline Woodson's Website

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