In this day in age, race relations are undergoing rapid change. It has gotten to a point where people are reevaluating what progress has been made since the Civil Rights Movement and how far we need to go in order to truly achieve racial equality. Since the Black Lives Matter protests started in May, people have been reading mainly nonfiction books about racial prejudice in America in order to open their eyes to the discrimination that black people face on a daily basis. I went in a slightly different direction. Sure, I have read materials and watched informative videos on white privilege, police brutality, and how racist current laws are in this county, but I decided to read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. As I mentioned in my The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane review, fiction allows writers to create stories that are based around certain facts, and they permit readers to take a look at how the people involved feel. Because I am white, I don’t think I will fully know how black people in this country live despite its inherently racist foundation, but I want to at least feel empathy for what they go through, and this is what The Hate U Give effectively provides.
The Hate U Give centers around Starr Carter – a 16-year-old who lives in a poor black neighborhood but goes to a fancy suburban prep school. She has to maintain the balance between these worlds until one day, her childhood best friend Khalil is fatally shot at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon after, his death becomes a national headline, with some people thinking that he was a thug and even a drug dealer. Even one of Starr’s white friends thinks that he had it coming. When it becomes clear that the police have little interest in investigating the situation, protests break out, and her neighborhood turns into a war zone. The only person who knows what truly happened is Starr, but revealing the truth could destroy her community and even endanger her life.
Very recently, I read a Time 100 Talks interview with the author that contained how she believed that the book and ones similar to it helps empower young voices to stand up for justice (https://time.com/5875827/author-angie-thomas-time-100-talks/), and I couldn’t be happier. She mentioned that the key is diverse storytelling, as in one has to create “mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors,” so people can not only see themselves, but also others not like them to build empathy.
When it comes to building empathy, Thomas is a true expert. Throughout the book, Starr wants to speak out about what happened in regards to Khalil’s death, but a lot of circumstances hold her back like a rival gang harming her family for snitching, the possibility of her white friends being insensitive, and other police officers not taking her seriously and assuming other things about her friend. With clear context like these, it will make readers stop and think before they accuse Starr of not speaking up sooner. In addition, other characters, both main and supporting, are relatable in one way or another. For instance, Starr’s dad Maverick is a former gang member who is completely devoted to his children. He protects them from harm because he was in prison for a few years. As a result, he missed out on some important milestones, so now, he wants to be in their lives as much as possible. This explains why Thomas wrote a book about his life with Concrete Rose, which will be released in January. However, he has preconceived notions about white people, which prevents Starr from telling him about her white boyfriend Chris for about a year. Eventually, they meet, and he even teaches Chris how to box. Even the white officer who shot Khalil is given empathy as the news mentions that he has a family and was scared for his life when he pulled the trigger (despite that none of the black characters buy this explanation).
Like with Turtles All the Way Down, it also helps that the topic of police brutality is treated in both a palatable and non-sugarcoated manner. In the beginning, readers witness the crime through Starr’s eyes. Her frustrations with people not listening to the truth or taking it seriously are given weight. The protests are seen as both justified and non-justified. It goes into the latter when they are ransacking businesses, which worries the family as Maverick owns a grocery store in their neighborhood.
All in all, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a powerful book that can appeal to everyone regardless of age and race. This has been mentioned before by other reviewers, but it is worth mentioning again: the way that the book creates empathy for all is top notch. It also makes the situation very realistic. So, if you haven’t read the book, do so soon! It can help empower people to stand up for justice.
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