Published by Balzer and Bray on February 28, 2017
Genres/Lists: Diverse, Fiction
Read synopsis on Goodreads
Buy the book: Amazon/Audible (this post includes affiliate links)
I often hear that we live in a post-racial America, that we have come a long way, and that progress has been made. For years we lived in a country where it was easier to sweep everyday racism and micro aggressions under the rug, giving the glossy veneer of a more accepting society.
But those of us who pay attention know the truth: we live in a country where white supremacists take to the streets without compunction and the news is riddled with police shootings of unarmed black Americans. We live in a country that systematically condones and crafts policies that harm people of color, specifically the black community. We do not live in a post-racial America, and a quick glance at the world around us gives us all the proof we need. Which is why we need to acknowledge it, reckon with our own roles in the system, change our behaviors, and speak out.
I don’t have the answers and, frankly, am not in a position to dispense advice on how to combat racism, but I do think that books like The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas demand to be read. Because this is a book that offers a glimpse into a world many white Americans have not experienced, and it’s high-time we did.
First, a quick summary:
The Hate U Give is about Starr, a high school student living in a poverty-stricken neighborhood but who is one of two black students at a nearby private school. She’s well-versed in gang culture, but her classmates wouldn’t know that because she keeps her lives separate. Tiptoeing around who she is and who she feels the need to be is exhausting, but when she witnesses her childhood friend’s murder at the hands of a white police officer, her ability to keep her lives separate begins to crumble.
Torn between speaking out and hiding who she is, she embarks on an emotional journey that impacts her relationships with friends and family from both worlds. It is a stunning novel and absolutely deserves to be on the longlist for the National Book Award. By the end, I wanted to wrap Starr in a blanket of love and compassion and tell her how sorry I am for what she had to go through. I often feel this way about characters in books, but this time Starr represents countless witnesses in real life and this realization was a punch in the gut. This isn’t a fictional character, this is a character that represents very real people. The following quotes demonstrate how much The Hate U Give resonate with the world we live in:
- “That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
- “I told the truth. I did everything I was supposed to do, and it wasn’t fucking good enough.”
- “You can destroy wood and brick, but you can’t destroy a movement.”
- “Just like y’all think all of us are bad because of some people, we think the same about y’all. Until you give us a reason to think otherwise, we’ll keep protesting.”
I consider myself to be very aware, but if I’ve learned one thing running for office, it’s that I have a lot to learn. I will never know what it’s like to be the only black person in a room. I will never know what it’s like to be presumed a criminal because of the color of my skin. I have never experienced extreme poverty. I do not know what it’s like to fall asleep to gunshots or see signs of gang activity on my street. And no matter how much I read or learn from the experiences of others, I know that I will always do so from a position of privilege.
But I try. If you, too, want to try to understand what it is like to be a black teenager in today’s America, then you need to read this book. If you want to learn how a single person can have two personas depending on the race of the people around them because social expectations are powerful, then you need to read this book. If you want to glimpse a world outside of your own and expand your compassion, then you need to read this book. Because although this book shines a light on only a slice of society, it is an important slice.
Beyond these things, I urge you to, like I did, ask yourself the hard questions. Which character do you identify with? Why? Are you complicit in systematic racism, even if you aren’t aware of it? If so, what do you plan to do with it? Because this isn’t just the story of Starr, it’s a call to action.
Recommended for: Everyone.