The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas (Sept 2017) Pac said Thug Life stood for “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody. T-H-U-G-L-I-F-E. Meaning what society gives us as youth, it bites them in the ass when we wild out. Get it? Khalil explains this to Starr as they are riding in his car. A short time later they are pulled over by a cop, and Khalil becomes a statistic – another unarmed black American gunned down by a cop.

This book spoke to my heart. The characters, the families, the relationships – had such a ring of authenticity to them. It’s hard to imagine that Starr and her family and friends don’t actually exist out there somewhere. Or perhaps they actually do exist and author Angie Thomas brought them to the pages of this book so those of us who do not inhabit their world would know them more intimately.

This book is categorized as “Young Adult” fiction, but it should be read by everyone over the age of 12. When I read books like this I wonder why these timely and relevant works have not replaced some of the dated and less relevant books being taught in classrooms everywhere. Literature does in fact influence culture and perspective. It’s time we were more selective about choosing books that are both great works of literature and compelling in their own right to the young people reading them.

I’ve read that the author was inspired by the music of Tupac Shakur – which factors into the book in a beautiful way – as well as by the Black Lives Matter movement. This book takes us inside communities most of us will never see. It gives a vividly constructed backstory to the newspaper headlines we see on a regular basis proclaiming that yet another unarmed African-American has been killed by police. We have come to expect exactly how it will play out – an investigation, a hearing, possibly a trial, and at the end no cop will be charged.

I highly recommend this book. I loved every minute I spent with these characters. Their lives are real and it’s the realness of their situation that makes you hold your breath and fear what will come next. We should feel the same way about the real people in this country that we feel about the characters in this book. We need to care more and we need to do more to protect the lives of black people in our communities.

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