Note: This post is for a class, so it’s going to be a little different from my usual reviews!
The Hate U Give is Angie Thomas’s debut novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and published just this year. It focuses on Starr, a teenage African-American girl who lives “in the hood” but goes to a high socioeconomic class school elsewhere. One night, she witnesses her childhood friend Khalil killed unarmed by a policeman when he was merely checking to see if she was okay. Shocked by the incident and the media attention, Starr struggles to navigate her life in her community and her school, while trying to find how she can use her voice for social justice.
The Hate U Give is long for a contemporary–over 400 pages–but Starr’s voice is readable and the scope of the novel allows for a nuanced analysis of the situation. Starr’s narration makes use of AAVE (African-American Vernacular English), a linguistically valid dialect that is unfortunately seen as less “literary” or “proper” than Standard English, leaving minority students discriminated against and lacking representation. But Starr and Thomas use it in pride, while also examining the process of code-switching–how Starr speaks, dresses, and acts differently when she’s in more affluent and white situations like her school and the part of town her uncle and boyfriend live. She also has a great relationship with her parents and brothers, a family dynamic that’s so fun to read.
The Hate U Give similarly offers a nuanced dive into Starr’s community and the structural situations often ignored by those who don’t understand these protests of police brutality. Starr’s father is a former drug dealer and her brother’s mother is still involved in that world, leading her to experience how difficult it is to leave that world alive and how Khalil being labelled as a “drug dealer” in the media ignores the economic though spot he was in–the reason why many young men get mixed up in the world. Starr’s uncle is also a cop, but one who acknowledges the importance of accountability. There is also a discussion of performative allyship when students at Starr’s school skip school to participate in protests, while they exhibit biased behavior elsewhere.
This book is important not only for black teens struggling with these issues and looking to be represented, but also for students who can gain empathy and perspective from Thomas’s nuanced analysis of the situation. I’m exciting for the upcoming movie and to see this integrated into classrooms across the country!
Links Starr would be interested in:
- About Black Lives Matter
- Youth Activism
- Tupac Explains THUG LIFE
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Theme Song
- The Encyclopedia of Air Jordans
Video: Angie Thomas on Inspiration Behind the Book