The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone: what Tupac Shakur called THUG LIFE.
Angie Thomas does a brilliant job intertwining the real-world issues of racism, police brutality, gang violence, poverty, and privilege in her novel for young adults.
The book is no joke- more than 400 pages of a narrative that I’ve seen on the news, heard from some of my students, but never truly heard so developed from the voice of a young, black girl.
Starr Carter is the black protagonist who attends 11th grade at a private school in a wealthier suburb forty-five minutes away from the neighborhood where she lives called Garden Heights, which is under-resourced, over-policed and plagued by hardships.
During spring break, she attends a house party near her home where she bumps into one of her longest life friends Khalil. He’s the same age, they grew up together, and when Khalil drives her home and they get pulled over, trauma ensues, and the all-too-familiar tale of an unarmed black man dying at the hands of law enforcement begins.
Without her permission, Starr, as the only witness, is launched into both an internal and external struggle with finding the courage to speak up and speak the truth, with reflecting on the role of race and racism in her society and in her relationships, and with grieving numerous heartaches and injustices in her community.
It’s absolutely worth reading or listening to, and for a book written for young adults, it’s more than bearable. It’s actually enjoyable, thought-provoking, and intense.
As my 10th-grade students read this book, many asked if this was based on a true story- surprised when I explained realistic fiction because it seemed so real. I read chapter one aloud and a black, male student interrupted halfway through saying “Ms. Noble, I feel like I’m there.” Several students wrote essays with thesis statements along the lines of why this book needs to be taught in school. Students came up with themes to write about that most felt they could relate to: If you have a voice, you should use it. It’s okay to be afraid; just stay strong. The role of police is to protect and serve, not to harm. All neighborhoods deserve to be safe. Below is a picture of some artistic canvases students chose to make from quotes they felt defined the story.
I get the chance to teach this book again to adults in a class for continuing education credits in the spring, and I am excited.
This book would be an excellent pick for the new year for a teenager in your life, a teacher, or even- for you!