Tupac’s words given new life thanks to BLM-inspired YA novel

it's_Lit_webBanenr

By: McKenna Graham, Associate Arts & Life Editor

Book: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Genre: Contemporary YA, #ownvoices
Rating: Five Stars

Welcome back, Tigers, to another semester dedicated to the pursuit of social equality, the challenging of bigotry and hate, and the drinking game that is today’s American politics.

At this point, ask anyone about the Black Lives Matter movement and you’ll get any range of reactions – some desirable and some undesirable – but everyone knows what’s going on.

Especially in light of recent events, this topic requires some more conversation, and that’s where Angie Thomas’s novel comes into play. In “The Hate U Give” she tells the story of Starr Carter, a 16-year-old black girl living in a suburban, predominantly black neighborhood who goes to the private, almost totally white school 45 minutes away.

Starr is a girl torn between these two worlds, but they’re forced to collide one night when she is the sole witness of a white cop murdering her black friend, and this sparks a national movement advocating the end of police brutality and systematic racism.

We follow Starr on her journey to reconcile the two worlds she straddles, to absorb the death of a friend and find closure, and to decipher what is right from wrong. Thomas draws upon her own experiences, as well as the experiences of others, to flush out and put on display the inside of a fictional case and story that has been told time and time again by people in our country.

I’m the first to admit that I’m white. I grew up in a nice, suburban middle-class neighborhood full of people of all races, ethnicities, religions and sexual orientations. It was diverse and it was safe. Reading “The Hate U Give” wasn’t exactly an eye-opener, but it served as a reminder of many people’s realities these days. Starr wasn’t just told about “the birds and the bees” when she was twelve, she was also told about what to do if she’s approached by a cop. When she was twelve.

That’s what’s so important about reading books centered around people much different from you. How else are you supposed to be sympathetic to their plight? How else are you supposed to learn about the world, about the realities that so vastly differ from yours?

Angie Thomas writes with quick wit and unforgiving bluntness, and with a character’s voice that she nails because it’s so similar to her own, about a fictional person whose story reflects real life. The way she crafts this book is masterful, and I loved reading it, but it’s so much more important than just “a good read.” This book is necessary for a lot of people – people who can relate to Starr as well as people who have never been in shoes like Starr’s.

Now more than ever it is important to identify and acknowledge the injustices of people whose fear drives them to do wrong – as we live in a world where a man who condones bigotry and blatant hatred is setting an example for our nation, as we face another round of genocidal maniacs, as we wake up to yet another day of discrimination and hatred and violence, we need to listen and learn from each other.

Read this book. Not just because it’s well-written, fast-paced and starts a conversation. Read this book because it gives voice to generation upon generation of people who are tired of having their words strangled and bodies mangled; read this book because the entirety of literature is dedicated to what this book is able to do in just over 450 pages – document the human experience; read this book because, Tupac put it best, “The Hate U Give Little Infants F****s Everybody.”

That’s right, Thug Life stands for more than you think. Tupac Shakur introduced this concept to the world. He explained it as, essentially, this: the hatred and oppression you serve to black people and other minorities when they’re young – the racism, the slurs, the second-rate schools, the impoverished neighborhoods, the rates of unemployment and incarceration – comes back to bite you in the ass. It ruins everyone, not just them, and society as a whole suffers.

So read this book. Not because I’m telling you to, but because you owe it to yourself to take a walk in Starr’s kick-ass Jordans.

 

Leave a Reply