Thomas Delivers an Impressive Story in “The Hate U Give”

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Angie Thomas’ 2017 debut novel has been on my reading radar since it was published, but so often, I end up not really enjoying the books that receive all the awards, accolades and attention. Media hype and buzz sells books, for sure. But it does not mean the book is actually GOOD.

Except when it does.

“The Hate U Give” is a story told from the perspective of sixteen-year-old Starr Carter and the precarious balancing act she manages while living in a poor, black neighborhood and attending Williamson, a fancy suburban prep school during the day. The story centers around Starr witnessing the fatal shooting of Khalil, her childhood best friend at the hands of Officer 115. Khalil was unarmed. Naturally, the shooting turns into a national media event and Starr struggles to balance the already unsteady world of “Normal Starr” and “Williamson Starr”.

“For at least seven hours I don’t have to think about Khalil. I just have to be normal Starr at normal Williamson and have a normal day. That means flipping the switch in my brain so I’m Williamson Starr. Williamson Starr doesn’t use slang–if a rapper would say it, she doesn’t say it, even if her white friends do. Slang makes them cool. Slang makes her “hood.” Williamson Starr holds her tongue when people piss her off so nobody will think she’s the “angry black girl.” Williamson Starr is approachable. No stank-eyes, side-eyes, none of that. Williamson Starr is nonconfrontational. Basically, Williamson Starr doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her ghetto.”

“The Hate U Give” (Angie Thomas)

Details that made this book interesting:

  1. Starr’s parents are wonderful people! They aren’t perfect, but they sacrifice so much to provide a better life for their children.
  2. Starr’s uncle Carlos is a police officer on the same force as Officer 115, who shot Khalil. He is very close to Starr and her family and his role in the book is significant.
  3. Starr has a white boyfriend Chris, whom she keeps secret from her father because she knows he won’t approve. Chris also attends Williamson and lives in an affluent area; he knows very little about Starr’s real life.

Yes, I’m a white, middle class, 50-something, southern woman who lives in the suburbs, but that doesn’t mean I only want to read about people similar to me. How boring would that be?

And while it’s insulting (and even naive) to think simply reading a book is going to allow a white person to fully understand the experience and struggles of a young, black woman, that doesn’t mean you won’t gain some understanding and even a tiny bit of insight into what other races experience. Stories which offer the opportunity to consider another perspective are a gift. I loved every minute I spent reading “The Hate U Give” and I hope you will consider reading it. My hope is that many people will read it and then be prompted to have conversations about issues of race and privilege.

Do you enjoy reading about real people who are different from you in terms of race, religion, situation, and circumstance? If so, you might enjoy one of these memoirs:

“Infidel” (Ayaan Hirsi Ali) – Somali-born Dutch-American activist, feminist, and author – Time Magazine named her 100 of the most influential people in the world and she writes eloquently about growing up Muslim and the price she has paid for advocating for reform within the faith.

“Call Me American” (Abdi Nor Iftin) – a Somalian immigrant story in which Iftin takes you from childhood in the war-torn and extremely dangerous streets of Somalia to his ultimate arrival to the USA.

“Rabbit” (Patricia Williams) – Ms. Pat takes the reader through her experience growing up in the projects in Atlanta, Georgia during the time when crack cocaine first came onto the scene, growing up in an incredibly tough family life yet still persevering to make a better life for herself and other family members.

“When Breath Becomes Air” (Dr. Paul Kalanithi) – highly respected neurosurgeon shares his journey of being the patient when he is diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer when he’s in his thirties and a rising star in his field of medicine.

“My Own Words – Ruth Bader Ginsburg” (Mary Hartnett and Wendy Williams) – fascinating peek into the upbringing, education, private and public side of being a Supreme Court Justice. Her words – spoken and written – about listening to those with whom you disagree and even maintaining close friendships with ideological opposites are inspiring. Ginsburg’s philosophy and practices could go a long way toward helping us all smooth out rough edges in the current political climate.

“Hillbilly Elegy” (J.D. Vance) – this memoir of a family and culture in crisis will open your eyes to life in the Rust Belt and growing up “hillbilly” amidst drug addiction, violence, and extreme poverty. This was one of my favorite books of 2017.

“It Was Me All Along” (Andie Mitchell) – this 2015 memoir chronicles Mitchell’s lifetime struggle of binge-eating, dieting, self-hatred, and food-exercise obsession. It will open your eyes to what it really means to struggle with weight and body issues.

Do you like to read about people who are different from you? I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Reading!

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