Study Guide

Toswiah Green/Evie Thomas in hush

By Jacqueline Woodson

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Toswiah Green/Evie Thomas

When we start the journey with our narrator, she's twelve years old and lives in Denver, Colorado. Importantly, her name is Toswiah Green. When we leave her at the end of the book, she's fourteen, she lives somewhere in the Northeast—and her name is Evie Thomas. Quite the transformation… Or is it? Toswiah/Evie's external circumstances change thanks to her family landing in witness protection, and while she isn't thrilled about this, this gives us a chance to really examine who she is at her core. After all, the external stuff is mostly lies.

They Say Journaling is Therapeutic

Here's one thing we definitely know about our main girl, no matter what name she's going by: Girl is reflective. She thinks things through. A lot. We know this is a key part of who she is because her memories about her life Denver are so vivid, which lets us know that she's always been one to pay attention to and think about the world around her. She's reflective as Toswiah and she's still reflective when the book ends and everyone's calling her Evie.

Another clue to Toswiah/Evie's reflective nature is the fact that she keeps journals. In fact, she tells us her story through one of her journals. Check it out:

I can never tell anybody the real truth. But I can write it and say this story you're about to read is fiction. I can give it a beginning, middle, and end. A plot. A character named Evie. A sister named Anna.

Call it fiction because fiction's what it is. (1.26-27)

Writing, then, helps Toswiah/Evie sift through all the complicated thoughts and feelings she has about being ripped out of her life and plopped down into a new one.

The Friends and Family Plan

Toswiah/Evie also deeply values relationships and finds her identity in her connection with other people. For example, she's really close to her best friend, Lulu:

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)

The steadfastness with which Toswiah/Evie has paid attention to Lulu over the years makes it super clear that she adores her best friend. But it isn't all schoolyard playmates for our main girl—she also takes great pride in being named after her grandmother, who is also a Toswiah:

Toswiah was my grandmother's name and her mother's name, too. Whenever I told someone my name for the first time, I had to spell it out for them. Toswiah, I'd say slowly—pronouncing it Tos-wee-ah so that it didn't get mispronounced. Then I'd wait for them to go on about how unusual it was. (8.12)

Because Toswiah defines herself through these relationships, it's hard for her to let them go, and for a long time, she plots ways to get back to Grandma and Lulu. However, by the end of the book, she seems to accept the loss and is moving toward building new friendships with people like Mira and the other Toswiah who goes to her school.

Steady as She Goes

A lot changes for Toswiah/Evie. She leaves the town and state and region of the country she's grown up in, leaving her best friend, grandmother, pet, and even her name behind. And it ain't easy—her parents are struggling and our main girl feels pretty lost and lonely for a while. But she's resilient, this one, and she ultimately realizes that much of her identity is still in tact, that the key details remain the same. She says:

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)

This realization that parts of her identity remain the same allow Toswiah/Evie to accept her new life. When she says, "Some of these things—I'll still be tomorrow," she is recognizing that change is inevitable; this time she's shifted because of entering witness protection, but there will be other forces of change that come along. Underneath all this, though, are unmovable truths about Toswiah/Evie, parts of her identity that are here to stay. And so long as she can find these, well, she'll be okay.

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