Study Guide

hush Identity

By Jacqueline Woodson

Identity

Everything about who we were is gone—our names, our pictures, our old clothes and old lives. All that we have is our souls. (1.9)

Toswiah/Evie takes the line "All that you have is your soul" from a Tracy Chapman song. How does she define her soul? What does she mean when she talks about it?

Left behind is that rocker and one Toswiah Green, standing with her arms folded, on a tree-lined street in Colorado. If one of my old classmates shows a group picture around, someone might ask Who's that? And the classmate will answer That was Toswiah. She just disappeared one day. Weird, huh? (2.10)

There's a definite fear of being forgotten going on here. Underneath all the issues moving and being assigned a new identity cause lies Toswiah's fear that maybe she wasn't all that important to begin with—that maybe no one will really care that she's gone.

Those are cool names, you say. Cameron and Toswiah. If you want, you can have them. They don't belong to us anymore. (2.15)

What do you think of the way Toswiah/Evie tosses these names at the reader, like they're something she doesn't want or need? What's behind that attitude?

My name is Evie now, and here is Evie's story. She grew up in San Francisco—Pine off Divisadero. Kind of the border between Pacific Heights and Western Addition. Yeah, of course she knows where Golden Gate Park is. She used to go there all the time. Did you ever see the two-headed snake at the Exploratorium? Did you ever go to the Pork Store Restaurant? Yeah, Evie loved shopping in the Haight, too. They have the coolest clothes over there! But you know what she really misses? Ghirardelli's at the Wharf. And good sourdough bread and clam chowder. Don't you? (2.19)

Yes, yes, we miss all those things right now. San Francisco sounds awesome, for a place Toswiah/Evie has never been. Can you imagine having to pretend you lived somewhere you didn't? Give it a shot: What do you say?

I am not the girl. I am not the dog. Who am I?
WhoAmI? (3.4-7)

This is the million dollar question hush is concerned with. Who is Toswiah/Evie now? Who are her family members? Can they ever be anything like the same people? Will they be worse? Will they be better?

Toswiah and Cameron—Jonathan and Shirley Green's girls. My name is Evie now. Evil Evie. Evie Ivie Over. Here comes a teacher with a big fat stick....For more than thirteen years I'd been Toswiah. Then came an end to that system of things.

First they took our names away. (8.15)

We bet it's a thankless job to be a federal agent responsible for relocating people in witness protection because you're not the bad guy—you really are trying to protect people from harm—but you sure seem like the bad guy because you're the one saying "no" all the time, taking people from their homes in the middle of the night, forcing them to pick new names, withholding information. Sounds like a tough job to us.

"I don't want to be strong!" Anna said. "I just want...I just want to be who I am! Who I always was!" (16.49)

Anna is really vocal about how much she hates their new situation. Does she hate it more than Evie does, or does she just have a more outspoken way of presenting her concerns?

Anna turned and saw me. "God, you're such a freak!"

I stared at her but didn't say anything. Does it matter what I am, I wanted to scream, if I'm not anyone?! (16.77-78)

Stuck between two identities, Toswiah/Evie feels like she doesn't even exist.

I stood in my bedroom listening to the song, feeling a smile coming on. I am Toswiah Green. I am Evie Thomas. And some days I like and love either and both of me. (26.4)

Toswiah/Evie eventually concludes that she can be both people. Can she really? What do you think she means when she claims both identities? What kind of conflict can this cause?

Who would I be in an airless room? Who am I now? A bug on the wall. Today I am the younger daughter. The quieter one. The one who will stay a while longer. Today I am Spider, Hey Evie, what's up?, Daddy Longlegs, Ms. Thomas. Daddy's daughter. A child of God. Silly. Pretty. Skinny. Some of these things—I'll still be tomorrow. (27.10)

Most of these things don't have anything to do with the relocation—Toswiah/Evie was many of these things in Colorado, and she continues to be them in the Northeast. Can you make a list of things that would be part of your identity even if you were in Toswiah/Evie's situation? It gets right to the heart of who you are.

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