When you spent your life upholding the law, protecting others, and teaching your children right from wrong, what happens when doing what's right means ruining your and your family's life?
The young adult novel, Hush by Jacqueline Woodson, lets us into the lives of a beautiful middle class African American family living in Denver. While at work one day, the narrator's father, a police officer, witnesses two white cops kill an unarmed black teenage boy. And everything the father has believed and has taught his daughters becomes less clear.
Making the decision to stand up for what he believes is right means the family has to move, change their names, and sever all ties with their family and friends. And now this once beautiful family has become a shell of what it once was. Mom joins a new church, dad spirals deeper into depression, and the two daughters have to figure out who they really are if their names, their family, and their pasts are different.
This book is sad. It makes you wonder how much of yourself is tied up in your name, would you still be the same person if your name went away, and how do you start from scratch in a place you don't want to be? It makes me question how much I'd be willing to risk to stand up for what is right. I would like to say I would always do the right, noble, honorable thing, but seeing the pain in this family makes me doubt myself. And what do you do when there isn't really a right choice? This is a novel of choosing the lesser of two evils. And no one wins.
This is the second book I've read by Woodson. In an undergrad young adult literature class, I first met this author on the pages of If You Come Softly about two fifteen-year-old kids (one white and one black) who fall in love. Racism, prejudice, and age all play against them in a modern day twist on Romeo and Juliet. That novel was just as though-provoking as Hush. And painful also. Woodson really knows how to cut deep with her writing. I do own one more book by her, Feathers, that I will eventually get to, but I need something lighter to read for my next book. Sometimes I just want something mind-numbing and light. Heavy stuff all the time brings me down.