When her aunt’s adopted daughter Tyler comes to stay with them for the summer, Staggerlee, a self-proclaimed loner, finds a soulmate in Tyler, but their intense feelings for each other catch them off guard and force them to make some difficult decisions.
- ISBN: 9780142501917
- Published: 2003 , Speak
- Themes: African American, Family, Identity, LGBTQI+
- Descriptors: Intermediate (ages 9-14), Realistic Fiction, United States
- No. of pages: 128
One thought on “The House You Pass On The Way”
Jacqueline Woodson, one of my favorite authors for children and young adults, consistently writes sparse, beautiful prose, creating characters and emotional connections that stay with me as a reader long after I have finished the pages of her books.
The House You Pass on the Way definitively encapsulates this month’s WOW Books’ theme of young adults attempting to straddle cultural divides. The novel’s protagonist, 14-year-old Staggerlee, struggles to find a place of belonging in her town, her school, and her family. Her bi-racial family is looked upon with suspicion and unease by members of the community and her introverted, quiet personality results in her classmates labeling her as “stuck up” and “odd.” Staggerlee is also the granddaughter of two legendary entertainers and civil rights activists who were killed in a bombing in the 1960s; while she is proud of her family heritage, it also serves to further isolate her from her classmates–being the granddaughter of people who have statues erected of them in the town square further separates her from the one girl with whom she’d made a tentative friendship.
Consistently asked whether she is white or black, Staggerlee knows, but finds it hard to articulate, how much more complex her identity is than a question of white or black, stating, “I’m me. That’s all.”
An added layer of internal turmoil is introduced regarding Staggerlee’s attempts to navigate and understand her own sexuality; when her cousin visits for the summer, she finally finds a friend, a companion, and someone with whom to discuss her own internal struggles to navigate not only her confusion regarding those who want to label her racial identity, but also over the secrets she feels she must keep about her sexuality. Framed within the innocence of early adolescence, The House You Pass on the Way does an amazing job of framing adolescent self-discovery and awakening sexuality, recognizing and honoring that such issues are more about emotions such as love, care, and intimacy than they are about sex itself.
A beautifully crafted story with poignantly touching scenes of adolescent realizations about life, love, and loss, The House You Pass on the Way is, like all of Woodson’s books, an exquisite read with amazingly honest characters and themes.