The Hate U Give

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This book. Damn. I can’t even.
This book is powerful.
It’s been quite awhile since I’ve felt the need to stop reading a book, just to hunt down sticky notes to write comments about specific passages of a novel.

I’m always a little nervous about books that get a lot of hype preceding and immediately at their release, we’ve all been burned by that before. However, considering how relevant this book’s contents our to modern American life, the hype was well deserved. This book deals with a lot a big topics like social class, race, identity, teen life, interracial relationships, but most notably: police brutality.

Starr lives in Garden Heights, a poor black neighborhood, “the ghetto,” run in part by rival gangs. Starr has lived in Garden Heights most of her life, but her parents send her to a private school in the rich, suburban, white neighborhood (li’l more on why this is an important addition later). Our story starts at a Garden Heights party, where Starr runs into a childhood best friend, Khalil. Trouble breaks out at the party so Starr and Khalil leave together, not knowing the night will only get worse from there. A “routine stop” for a broken tail light ends with Khalil being shot and killed. 

That Hate U Give is the aftermath of Khalil’s death.

Angie Thomas tackles police brutality in a way like never before. And while this story largely revolves around the shooting of an unarmed black teen, so many other sociological issues come into play as well. Angie Thomas hits on all of these big social issues without being preachy or self-righteous; it is raw, realistic, and powerful.

I think it was brilliant on Angie Thomas’ part to have Starr attend a school where the majority of the student body is white, rich, and privileged so as to show the two very different worlds that exist right next door to each other. Throughout the book, Starr struggles between which Starr she is in which circumstance, she keeps her school life and home life separate, until eventually they collide.
With one friend, Hailey, we get the perspective of white privilege, the “All Lives Matter” voice if you will. Hailey is everyone’s “racist-but-doesn’t-think-they’re-racist” family member who can’t see past their own ignorance. You frequently want to smack her, but her character is vital to this story. I feel like every white person who doesn’t seem to think police involved shootings are a big deal NEEDS to read this and realize we need to stop trying to rationalize the real-life deaths of people similar to Khalil by labeling people as “just a drug dealer.”

“And at the end of the day, you don’t kill someone for opening a car door.”

One of my favorite parts of this books is a conversation between Starr and her dad, Maverick. It’s a meaningful conversation between father and daughter about why good kids, like Khalil, turn to dealing drugs to survive. Their conversation takes place after Khalil’s death and centers around the Tupac quote that led to the title of this book. “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody” – t.h.u.g.l.i.f.e.

A chopped up version of the most profound part of this conversation that I love:

Lack of opportunities. Corporate America don’t bring jobs to our communities, and they damn sure ain’t quick to hire us. Then, shit, even if you do have a high school diploma, so many schools in our neighborhoods don’t prepare us well enough. Our schools don’t get the resources to equip you. It’s easier to find some crack than it is to find a good school around here.
Now think ’bout this. How did the drugs even get in our neighborhood? This is a multibillion-dollar industry we talkin’ about, baby. That shit is flown into our communities but I don’t know anybody with a private jet.
Drugs come from somewhere, and they’re destroying our community.
You got folks like Brenda, who think they need them to survive, and then you got the Khalils, who think they need to sell them to survive. The Brendas can’t get jobs unless they’re clean, and they can’t pay for rehab unless they get jobs. When the Khalils get arrested for selling drugs, they either spend most of their life in prison, another billion-dollar industry, or they have a hard time getting a real job and probably start selling drugs again.
That’s the hate they’re giving us, baby, a system designed against us. That’s Thug life.”

This book is important. I can’t even adequately explain this book or the things it made me feel. You’ll just have to read it, and know: the hype is worth it. It’s fiction but the circumstances, the emotions, the frustrations… are all too real.