What will it take to get #BlackLivesMatter opponents to see, feel and accept the humanity of black people in the United States? What will it take for the men, women and children killed by police officers to be viewed as human, when their pasts are used to justify their deaths?
The Hate U Give, a Young Adult book written by Angie Thomas, might be one of many answers to these questions.
In her debut novel, Thomas humanizes the black struggle, the cries of protesters; the reality of being black, and black and female, in America.
The novel’s synopsis reveals that it explores police violence, racial justice, activism and code-switching:
“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.”
Inspired by the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the teen book echoes the deaths of #TrayvonMartin, #EricGarner and #MikeBrown, including the political, social and (lack of) legal action that followed.
The title of the book stems from Tupac Shakur’s THUG LIFE philosophy, which stands for “The Hate U Give Little Infants F**ks Everybody”. In other words, what society instills in its youth, including how society treats them, will return to it in full force, affecting us all.
THUG, which is Thomas’ debut novel, is a #1 New York Times Best Seller, and has been optioned by Fox 2000 to be made into a film. George Tillman Jr. from the movie Soul Food is attached to direct the project and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg is attached to star in it.
The novel has received rave reviews, including a rating of 4.73 out of five stars on Goodreads. There is also a discussion guide to supplement the book, which can be downloaded here.
Storytelling has long been an effective device in changing societies, encouraging empathy and connecting people from all walks of life.
The Hate U Give is on track to hopefully be one of many books that will open the eyes and hearts of readers to what it’s like to be a minority, poor and disenfranchised in America.
If you’re looking for a passionate, enlightening and powerful way to teach people about the complexities of prejudice, police relations and socioeconomic disparity in the U.S., this novel appears to be a great start.