Monday, May 27, 2019

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas

Starr Carter is 16 and lives in Garden Heights, a black ghetto neighbourhood. With a close family and neighbours, it’s rough but it’s home. Her dad is an ex-con, ex-gang member who with his wife is lovingly raising their children to be above the violence and gangs, while still very aware of racist prejudice in their lives. When she was 10 best friend Natasha was gunned down in the street by a gang shooting. Now she goes to a private school on a scholarship an hour away in Williamson, and has white friends there and a secret white boyfriend, Chris.

Good friend Khalil has started to sell drugs to help his family, trapped in a cycle that many young men easily fall into. Starr and Khalil are on their way home from a party and are stopped by a young white police officer. Khalil is unarmed and while a bit stroppy is no threat, but one wrong move means that he is shot dead by the officer and dies in Starr’s arms.

As the neighbourhood starts to react to the news that yet another black life has been lost, Starr is torn. It’s easier to stay quiet and not stand up for Khalil, for they all know justice is rarely served in these cases. Does she tell the truth about what happened and risk the riots that will result in her neighbourhood? Does she name the drug kingpin who forced Khalil to sell for him? And how does she even begin to explain this part of her life to her school friends and Chris, who have no idea about where she lives or what it is like.

As she and her family ponder what to do, they are aware of the implications:
“The truth casts a shadow over the kitchen – people like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right.”
This is a tense and challenging read about racism, inequality, policing and the legal system. It shines the spotlight on the issues facing poor black communities in America and champions the Black Lives Matter movement. Even the title is making a point; it originates from rapper Tupac Shakur’s “THUG LIFE” idea, which is an acronym for The Hate U Give Little Infants F… Everybody.
“Daddy once told me there’s a rage passed down to every black man from his ancestors, born the moment they couldn’t stop the slave masters from hurting their families. Daddy also said there’s nothing more dangerous than when that rage is activated.”
At the same time, there are really strong family role models for Starr, and a familial sense of love and protection for those you love. There is a fair amount of swearing and references to sexual activity ,but nothing that older teens won’t already hear at school. There’s also a fair amount of violence, mostly referred to rather than actively described, including beatings, shootings and domestic abuse. While I’m sure this book has great value to those living in similar communities, I can’t speak from that experience. What I can say is that this is a very worthwhile read for those not in these communities. Mr 16 found it interesting, challenging and eye-opening. We had resultant conversations about gun ownership in the US and the level of violence that exists in some areas.

I’m not sure how many schools will take this book on as recommended reading for teenagers but they definitely should consider it.

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