English 394 – Literature for Young Adults
Grant T. Smith, Ph. D.
I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This – Discussion
If I were to ask you what you learned from I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You
This, how would you respond? Does
the author have an agendum that she addresses?
Share with the group one passage that provoked you, saddened you, amused
you, confused you…evoked some response from you. Tell
the group why that passage impressed you.
What separates Lena and Marie? What
Some readers are critical of Woodson’s conclusion to the book—Lena and
Dion running away from their home. Does
the book offer positive answers to abused children’s questions?
How do you respond to the question: “Why
is it wrong to say nigger, but it is okay to say white trash?”
What is your response to Marie’s mother? What
does Marie learn from her mother?
What does Marie learn from her father?
Woodson quotes a stanza from Emily Dickinson’s poem #1147. The
complete poem reads:
After a hundred years
Nobody knows the Place
Agony that enacted there
Motionless as Peace
Weeds triumphant ranged
Strangers strolled and spelled
At the lone Orthography
Of the Elder Dead
Winds of Summer Fields
Recollect the way—
Instinct picking up the
Dropped by memory
Why do you think Woodson
chose the first stanza as a prologue for her book?
A critical reader may want to discuss Woodson’s use of imagery, e.g., bathing;
her choice of names; the allusions to Thoreau and Whitman; the two forms
of discourse, narrative and epistle; class issues, and race issues. Did
any of these literary conventions capture your attention?
How true to life is Marie’s relationship with her father? What
is your response to her father?
If you have a chance, read Woodson's new children's book illustrated by
Earl B. Lewis, The Other Side. It is a beautiful book, and
the parallels to I Hadn't Meant To Tell You This are clear.
for a web site for Jacqueline Woodson.