83 pages 2 hours read

Jacqueline Woodson


Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2000

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Summary and Study Guide


Hush (2002) is a middle grade novel written by Jacqueline Woodson. The story follows Toswiah Green and her family, who are forced to relocate to a new city and adopt new identities when Toswiah’s policeman father testifies against former colleagues in a shooting case. Jacqueline Woodson is an American author who writes books for children and adults. A MacArthur Fellow and the recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 2020, Woodson’s best known book is her memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming (2014), which won the National Book Award. Hush was a National Book Award finalist and was named the 2003 ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Through Toswiah/Evie’s story, Woodson explores themes of racism, identity, and coping with trauma.

This guide is based on the Penguin Young Readers Kindle Edition.

Content Warning: Hush contains mentions and descriptions of police brutality, racial violence, and a suicide attempt.

Plot Summary

Hush opens with mother Shirley Green kneading dough to make biscuits, while her teenage daughters, Cameron and Toswiah, watch on. The girls’ father, a policeman, returns home from work in time for dinner. Later that night, Toswiah watches the moon rise over the Rocky Mountains, marveling at the beauty of the scene. In the present, she laments on how this life is lost to her now.

At 13, Toswiah and her family are relocated by federal agents from their home in Denver to an unnamed state, where their old lives and identities are erased for their own protection. Toswiah, now “Evie,” narrates the events that led to the relocation, as well as the family’s adjustments to their new life.

Jonathan Green, Toswiah’s father, is the only Black police officer in his precinct in Denver. The Black population is significantly smaller than the white population in the city; despite this, the Greens do not experience any direct discrimination, as the police officers see each other as family. Shirley, Toswiah’s mother, is a beloved teacher, and Cameron, Toswiah’s sister, is a year older than her. Cameron and Toswiah’s family also consist of Matt Cat, the family pet, and their grandmother who lives close by. While Cameron is outgoing and popular, Toswiah is introverted. Toswiah’s best friend is a girl named Lulu, whom she has known her whole life and shares a birthday with.

One evening, Jonathon witnesses his colleagues, Officer Randall and Officer Dennis, shoot and kill an unarmed Black boy, a teenager named Raymond Taylor. Randall and Dennis claim the boy had been reaching for a gun, but Jonathan remembers Raymond facing the police with his arms in the air even before he was shot. Though conflicted, Jonathan decides to testify against his colleagues, breaking the “Blue Wall of Silence” (the police’s tendency to protect each other, even from wrongdoing). This leads to him receiving anonymous death threats, and the Defense Attorney suggests that the family relocate and change their identities via the Federal Witness Protection Program. Toswiah and Cameron are distraught at having to leave their home and friends behind, but the family is left with no choice when their house is shot at one evening. The Greens are taken away from Denver by federal agents in the middle of the night, with only a few belongings in tow.

After spending three months at a safe house in Colorado, the Greens—now the “Thomases”—are moved into an empty apartment building in a different state. Jonathan is still conflicted over having testified against his colleagues, who are eventually sent to jail for manslaughter; this, in addition to his inability to work as a police officer, leave him depressed. Shirley turns to religion for comfort and becomes a Jehovah’s Witness, her faith taking over all aspects of the family’s lives. Cameron, now “Anna,” studies hard to get into Simon’s Rock College in Massachusetts. The institution takes straight A students as young as 16, and she views it as her ticket out of her new life. Evie remains lonely and friendless for a long time, missing her grandmother and best friend Lulu.

Eventually, Evie secretly joins the track team at her school; she doesn’t tell the family, as Shirley only cares about academics and the Bible. Anna gets into Simon’s Rock earlier than anticipated, with a well written essay explaining the circumstances surrounding her family (with names and identifying details changed). When Anna breaks the news to Evie, she also reveals that she knows about Evie’s running, as the coach is her geometry teacher. Coach Leigh believes Evie shows great promise as a runner. Shirley eventually gets a job as a teacher again, while Evie continues to find joy in running, making friends on the track team. Just as things are looking up for everyone, Jonathan attempts suicide.

Jonathan is admitted to a hospital for a long time, working with a physical therapist to heal his damaged arm, as well as with a psychiatrist. With medication, he begins to return to his former self. However, the incident leaves Evie shaken and she misses her first track meet, deciding not to run anymore. Anna is more determined to attend Simon’s Rock and suggests that Evie run to start a new life too. Evie rejoins the track team when school reopens for the new year. Anna breaks the news about Simon’s Rock to Shirley, and the latter is unexpectedly supportive. The novel ends with Evie visiting a recovering Jonathan in the hospital, daughter and father feeling more positive about the future.