Big Purpose

From the beginning of After Tupac and D Foster, the author, Jacqueline Woodson, makes it clear that her novel is a story of reflection. In the prologue, the unnamed narrator gives an overview of what will happen in the book, announcing upfront that the story will end when Tupac dies and D Foster’s mother takes her away. By revealing the ending at the beginning, Woodson signals that our job as readers is not to figure out what happens next.

Near the beginning of the book, the narrator notes that both D and Tupac are in search of a Big Purpose for their lives. D says:

I know I got this Big Purpose. And when I know what it is, I’m coming right to you-all with the news.

However, she leaves before she finds her purpose and reveals it. The book is about the search, not the goal.

As a foster child who craves love and family, D has more reason than most children to start this search early and to pursue it seriously. Tupac, too, has strong motivations to find his purpose after he gets shot and nearly dies. The narrator is just beginning to grow up, and her search for purpose begins through her connections to Tupac and D. Her friendships and Tupac’s lyrics give her a sense that her life has some greater meaning than her everyday childhood experiences. When Tupac dies and D leaves, the narrator must find her Big Purpose on her own. Telling the story is her act of searching, and readers are invited to look with her.

Freedom and Family

The main character and her friend Neeka have loving mothers who work hard to care for them and keep them safe. At twelve, they consider themselves “almost grown,” and they crave the freedom that older teens and adults have. D, a foster child, has almost unlimited freedom to wander through New York City. She craves a secure family environment instead. When D’s mother comes to take her away, she is in some ways glad to go—even though it means giving up some of the freedom she has had.

Uncertainty, Danger, and Change

The characters in this book face a wave of changes in...

(The entire section is 894 words.)