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Novelist Angie Thomas Brings Realism, Tackles Racism in ‘The Hate U Give’

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Could you ever imagine someone murdering your best friend? Go on. I’m asking you to imagine it. I’m challenging you to envision such a horrible moment, the roller coaster of emotions constantly shifting in your psyche, the grief as it crashes against the tide of your mind. I’m challenging you because this is what this book does. “The Hate U Give” by novelist Angie Thomas chronicles the life of a black girl named Starr Carter as she navigates her own life, her community, and her relationships with her friends and family after witnessing the death of her best friend at the hands of a crooked cop.

The characters within the novel are all too real to me. One of my personal favorites is Maverick Carter, or Big Mav, the solid rock of the story. Maverick is Starr’s father and a former drug dealer who turns his life around and now owns a local  grocery shop in Garden Heights, their neighborhood. He’s knowledgeable of the world he lives in and is still able to protect his family by any means necessary. He guides Starr into choosing her own paths.

When Starr is reluctant to speak up, he allows her the silence because he knows what she’s been through. When it’s time, well and truly time for her to speak up, he prompts her. Despite his past, Maverick is an upstanding member of his community and even still has the respect of most of the old OG’s. He works hard to inform Starr of the hardships they have to face in this life and how they shouldn’t allow them to keep her down. He encourages Starr’s bravery and cultivates her intelligence. He is there with her 100 percent.

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Finally, let’s talk about the title. “The Hate U Give” is short for a quote by the legendary Tupac Shakur, a 90’s rapper who influenced the likes of Kendrick Lamar and many others, and is actually a part of the anagram T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E, which actually stands for “The Hate U Give Little Infants F**ks Everybody.” According to the novel, it talks about “what society feeds us as youth comes back to bite us in the ass later,” and nothing is truer in this book.

Starr lives in an environment where racial tension is high, and the results of systematic oppression and hatred are present at da-n near every street corner. Think of how intricate and long-lasting a system of oppression has to be and the people the system creates. When you read this novel, think of the fictitious Garden Heights neighborhood setting as a whole community. Consider why it’s as dangerous as it is. Think of why the headlines highlight the death of “Suspected Drug Dealer” Khalil instead of the friend and close confidante Starr knows. Think of how Hailey, Starr’s ex-best friend got so many passes for making racist remarks.

These kinds of decisions and circumstances breed and perpetuate a cycle of hatred and disenfranchisement to add to an already difficult situation. This, in turn, creates hatred, suspicion, guilt and agony. The blame should be placed on those who misuse their power, but instead, the blame gets pushed aside, or the story gets switched in favor of the oppressive party. Think about that. While you’re at it, pick up this book.

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Catherine, 19, is a student at Georgia State University.

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