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The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline…
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The House You Pass on the Way

by Jacqueline Woodson

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Woodson's, "The House You Pass on the Way," unabashedly portrays adolescent and young adult issues about forming self-identity. The reader ventures on a journey with Staggerlee, who struggles with questions about sexual orientation, ethnicity, and forming a sense of belonging within the community and society.

Staggerlee's family is the only biracial family in a predominantly Black town of Sweet Gum - and through gossip and hearsay her family faces criticism for having a, "white mama," who thinks she is just to good to speak to people, when in reality Staggerlee's mother keeps to herself by nature.

The author deals with the topic of adolescents seeking to resolve issues of sexual orientation openly, and effectively demonstrates how unique each person's experience can be - Stagerlee wrangles with intimate memories of her friend, Hazel, and Staggerlee's experience of having Hazel and her other friends turn on her, accusing Staggerlee of thinking her and her family were better than everyone else - all because of Staggerlee's biracial background and famous grandparents who were killed during the Civil Rights era. Staggerlee's cousin, Trout, visits for the summer, and Staggerlee's time with her cousin gives her perspective about the fluidity of sexual orientation - Trout admits she likes girls, but is curious about what it's like to date a boy. The two even discuss what it means to be gay, that it, "sounds so final."

The story transcends the setting and plot of the story - although everything takes place in the small town of Sweet Gum, and the story suggests that decades have past since the Civil Rights movement, most societies and countries to this day experience discrimination of Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Queer communities and the transgenerational effects of racism.

This book is highly recommended for ages 10-12, and is perfect for discussing diversity and coming of age. ( )
  elainevbernal | Nov 16, 2011 |
This is a very short novel, practically a short story, but it is poignant and sweet and the only YA novel I've read about a young African-American lesbian teenager. ( )
  sumariotter | Nov 2, 2011 |
I'm always amazed by how quickly I get sucked in to Jacqueline Woodson's books. The House You Pass on the Way is barley over 100 pages, and yet it is full of growth, a well-rounded cast of characters, and so much emotion. It even covers enough time to be both a little bluesy and a little hopeful at the same time. It's the perfect book for a rainy afternoon.

Staggerlee is kind of a loner, and, for the most part, she likes it that way. It gives her space to think and to play her music. In a town that is mostly Black, her mother is white. The statue in the center of town is of her grandparents, and it marks Staggerlee and the rest of her family as "special," something her classmates see as "better than." Also, we find out early on, Staggerlee was in love (in a sixth grade kind of way) with her ex-best friend Hazel. She has no words to describe the feeling she had for Hazel, but she knows she should keep them a secret. She feels different and out of place in her small town.

And this is where Staggerlee's cousin Trout comes in. They understand each other in more ways than they could have predicted at the beginning of their summer together. They spend that crazy, transformative summer between middle school and high school together, and they each gain from the other the strength to figure out who they really may be.

Though the circumstances may not be universal, Staggerlee's feeling of being on the outside is something just about everyone has experienced at one time or another, and her friendship with Trout, the way it helps Staggerlee to define herself and the vulnerability that creates, is beautifully rendered in the text. Even though The House You Pass on the Way can be read as an overall sad book, the melancholy is never overwhelming. And the writing, oh the writing, is so lyrical, emotional, and just plain gorgeous.

Book source: Philly Free Library ( )
1 vote lawral | Mar 2, 2011 |
This Coretta Scott King winner is a great story for adolescents who are questioning where they fit in the world. The story focuses on Staggerlee, a girl who struggles with racial definitions along with her sexual orientation. Staggerlee and a step-cousin spend a summer together and discover they both have questions about their sexual identity. This story lets the prepubescent reader know they are not alone when they begin to question everything they thought they knew about themselves. The end of the book is an eye-opener for readers who are going through these same experiences. Tyler, the cousin, comes to the realization that she is not gay, and begins a relationship with a boy. This is a powerful message to young readers. Many “tweens” experience this period of questioning. They can feel guilt, fear and shame for what they are going through. This book helps them to know that they are not alone, other kids go through this, and they may not be gay. For some children, this book could provide a great lifting of emotions and guilt.
Library Implications: I think this book would be a great book to read in literature circles with “tween” readers. It lends itself well to discussions concerning many issues this age group deals with. If doing this type of open discussion, the librarian must establish rules concerning confidentiality of the group and be sure the level of maturity of the readers is appropriate for such open interaction. A journal-writing project could also be a great way to encourage conversation about the book. Readers may feel less self-conscious writing thoughts and questions rather than openly voicing concerns to a group. Once again, the librarian must prepare parents for the content of the book/activity, giving them an opportunity to introduce the topics at home, or opt out of the reading if they choose. When parent s don’t approve of the book provided, the librarian can keep the same type of activity, but focus on another book choice. ( )
  mathqueen | Mar 17, 2010 |
Staggerlee lives in a small, African-American community in the South. She struggles with her biracial identity (her mother is white) and also wonders if she might be gay, even though she has no words to talk about it. She is lonely and feels like she just doesn't fit anywhere.

When her cousin, Trout, visits during the summer when both girls are 14, they become very close, united in their struggles to define their identities.

Woodson touches on some poignant issues and I had high hopes for this story, but it never really grabbed me. ( )
  mrsdwilliams | Sep 16, 2009 |
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"Look forward," Trout said one afternoon. "Don't you want to see what you're headed for?"
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142501913, Paperback)

Staggerlee is used to being alone. As the granddaughter of celebrities and the daughter of an interracial couple in an all-black town, she has become adept at isolating herself from curious neighbors. But then her cousin, Trout, comes to visit. Trout is exactly like Staggerlee wishes she could be: outspoken, sure of herself, beautiful. Finally, Staggerlee has a friend, someone she can share her deepest, most private thoughts with. Someone who will teach her how to be the strong girl she longs to be. But is Trout really the girl Staggerlee thinks she is?

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:53 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

When fourteen-year-old Staggerlee, the daughter of a racially mixed marriage, spends a summer with her cousin Trout, she begins to question her sexuality to Trout and catches a glimpse of her possible future self.

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