Jacqueline Woodson, January 2008. This excellent middle-grade novel follows the lives of the unnamed narrator and her two best friends, Neeka and D. The narrator lives across the street from Neeka and has known her since they were toddlers, but D is new in their lives. She has a mysterious past and a totally unknown present; Neeka and the narrator don’t even know where she lives. She shows up on the bus at random hours, whereas N & N aren’t even allowed off their block. The three girls listen to Tupac Shakur’s music, relating it to their own lives as much as they can, and follow his history of assaults and hospital stays until the day of his death.
A subplot follows Neeka’s brother Tash, in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Tash is introduced to the reader as “a queen” and “a sissy from day one and most people just accepted it.” Despite these derogatory terms, Tash is presented as a strong and sympathetic character, on the girls’ side when the world is against them. His mother only reluctantly accepts his sexual preference, disliking it when he calls himself “a sister” or acts “sissyish” around his little brothers, but ultimately she admits, when Tash asks whether he’s good enough for her, “You know you are, baby. You know you are.”