Study Guide

hush Friendship

By Jacqueline Woodson

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Imagine your best friend's smile, how you remember it from its front-teeth-missing days till this moment. A year after the braces have come off and she's finally learned how to comb that mass of hair. The boys falling over themselves for her. Her name is Lulu. (1.12)

Think back, as Toswiah/Evie asks us to: Can you remember a friend like this and how he or she changed over childhood? How does the memory make you feel?

Imagine yourself whispering back I'm not going anywhere. I'd never leave here in a million years!

And Lulu laughing, throwing her head back like a grown-up. And Lulu's warm head on my shoulder—the day so perfect, we're speechless.

Lulu, my friend. (1.15-17)

Of course, Toswiah/Evie does leave Lulu behind in Denver. How might Lulu have been affected by this? Imagine the situation from Lulu's point of view. Poor Lulu, right?

Lulu lived five doors down from us. Earlier that evening, before the bullets came through the kitchen window, she had tiptoed up to my room and hugged me in the way she had done so many nights before.

We had known we would be leaving but didn't know exactly when. Each morning before school, Lulu and I hugged each other hard—thankful for another day together. Each night, we cried and said our goodbyes. Lulu and I had been born in the same hospital. Our mothers said we turned toward each other in our neighboring incubators and smiled. We were both born a month too soon in the middle of the night. We both weighed less than five pounds. When Lulu left my room, I pressed my face against the pane and cried. (8.3-4)

Lulu and Toswiah/Evie have history. They literally don't remember a world without each other, and they came into the world with the same issues—born a month early, not weighing much. They've been there for each other since day one, and now they are being ripped apart.

I didn't tell her that Lulu and I had made promises. We'd go to the same college. We'd room together. We had already picked the school—University of Wisconsin in Madison, because Lulu's father had gone there and always talked about how big and beautiful it was. Far enough away from Denver and this place. I'd have a new name. I'd be taller. But from the incubator till thirteen is a long, long time. She'd remember me. (9.15)

What do you think of Toswiah/Evie's plans? Is this something that's likely to happen? Is it something the Feds would even allow to happen? Would it put Toswiah/Evie in danger? Or is this just something Toswiah/Evie tells herself to help herself through?

Mama didn't want us to make friends. It's too dangerous, she said. I know how you girls tell your friends every single thing. There'll be time for friends, she said. Let's just get ourselves good and settled in who we are first. (12.8)

Mama has a point: It would be really hard to have a friend you couldn't tell your biggest secret. Hopefully the girls will be able to find ways to reveal their pasts in the future.

Some days I could feel her—right there by my side, bumping shoulders with me. The two of us laughing. Lulu. I pulled my knapsack tighter to me and swallowed. Once she had said that my moving away was gonna leave a big hole in her life. Now I wondered if she had found someone else to be close to, if that hole had filled up and closed over. Even though I believed we'd meet again in college, sometimes the missing made me feel unsure. Now I was almost as tall as my mother. I wondered if Lulu had grown, too. Her mother would say Look at Miss Toswiah—getting all tall on us. And Lulu would laugh her laugh while I stood there in embarrassment. I would give anything for that moment. Absolutely positively anything. (13.12)

Toswiah/Evie is afraid that she and Lulu will grow apart, that no contact will mean the end of the relationship. It's hard because she and Lulu both need that wound to heal, but allowing healing means letting go, and Toswiah/Evie doesn't want to let go.

Lulu and I always found some way to be together on our birthday. Me, her and all of our friends. I want to call her right now, say Happy birthday, girlie. Hear her say Right back at you. Same day, a few minutes apart. Less than five pounds. You think we were together in another life? she asked me once, her head on my shoulder.

Yeah, I said. And then we traveled together to this one. Another life. Another time. Lulu. (14.5-6)

Consider our heartstrings tugged. Toswiah/Evie starts out talking about how she and Lulu were friends in another life, but she ends up talking about how her life in Denver now seems like another life—and she can't bring Lulu into this new life.

She is thirty-nine. Before all of this happened, she was making plans for her fortieth birthday party. Her invite list was two pages long. Her friends are gone now, too. Behind her. No contact. (14.41)

In their own pain, Toswiah/Evie and Cameron/Anna often don't think about what their parents are going through. This reminds us that Mama lost a lot, too, including all her friends.

"Your legs are long," Mira says. She smiles and pulls up to the front of the group. I take a deep breath, feeling warm. My legs are long, I keep thinking. Yes. Yes. My legs are long. It is the friendliest thing anyone has said to me in a long time. (17.24)

Why is this such a big deal to Toswiah/Evie? Is it really such a friendly gesture to tell someone they have long legs?

On Friday, Mira called my name. Evie! she said. Evie, wait up a minute!


And for a minute, or maybe a hundred minutes—it was the most beautiful name in the world. (20.13-15)

Why does Toswiah/Evie find her new name beautiful now? What made her old name beautiful? Will she ever love the name "Evie" as much as she loved the name "Toswiah"?

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