Angie Thomas talks about the African American experience in “The Hate U Give”

By Diana Arutyunyan

There are several English classes reading Angie Thomas’ 2017 debut novel “The Hate U Give” this year, making connections to current events.

Thomas’ novel explores the life of an African American teenage girl in Mississippi. Thomas has received many awards such as the Coretta Scott King Book Award, which recognizes outstanding young adult and children’s books by African American authors.

“The Hate U Give” is about Starr Carter and her family who are African Americans living in a poor black neighborhood of Garden Heights, Mississippi. Starr attends an affluent predominantly white private school, Williamson Prep.

Throughout the book, Starr has to change her perception of the world as well as her views due to her struggles as an African American. She struggles to determine who is really on her side and who isn’t. The main focus of the book, however, is the fact that at the age of 16, Starr has to become the voice of justice after witnessing her African American friend murdered by the police.

What makes the book stand out is that it is able to capture many aspects of the lives of African Americans in a way that speaks to audiences, especially young adults. The book is eye-opening for audiences of all races, but especially those who have not experienced such racism and struggle.

One of the most important things that I learned from this book is about “the talk.” “The talk” is a conversation that African-American parents have with their children about how to act if you are pulled over by police.

“When I was 12, my parents had two talks with me. One was the usual birds and the bees. The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me. Mama fussed and told Daddy I was too young for that. He argued that I wasn’t too young to get arrested or shot. Starr-Starr, you do whatever they tell you to do, he said. Keep your hands visible. Don’t make any sudden moves. Only speak when they speak to you,” Starr recalls in Thomas’ novel.

Many of Thomas’ audience have not experienced this kind of reality, and may therefore be shocked to learn that it is so commonplace for African Americans.

“The Hate U Give” also shows the code-switching that goes on for many African Americans. Starr is one person at home in her neighborhood and a completely different person in her mostly white prep school. 

Thomas herself went through something very similar.

“I went to a mostly white upper-class private college here in Jackson, but I was from a neighborhood that is known for all of the wrong reasons and, for lack of better words, we will call it the hood. So I knew I had to fight against the stereotype of being a ghetto girl, and I had to fight even harder to show that I was intelligent and that I was capable of being there, just like my counterparts,” Thomas said in an interview with NPR.

Her novel shows how the justice system of America–the country of equality, freedom, and liberty–actually functions and that it puts down many people of color rather than offering them opportunities. 

That is one of the best aspects of the book, the reality of it. While reading, you can forget that this is fiction. Events that happened in the book were so close to reality that it made you think of actual victims such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, etc. 

The author did a really great job in conveying the emotions that Starr has throughout the novel. It shows how her life changed at that moment when her friend was killed. Thanks to the amazing heart-wrenching work of Thomas, readers are able to feel what Starr feels. 

The greatest thing about this book is the truth about the justice system. America is known for its justice and equality. However, this book shows how the system does not actually offer either. 

Overall, “The Hate U Give” is a great book that addresses very contemporary issues, compelling young readers of all races to stand up against injustice.