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Pictured: VOX ATL staff member Brooklyn Williams gets her copy of “On the Come Up” signed by Angie Thomas.

Thank You, Angie Thomas: Life Lessons From the ‘On The Come Up’ Author

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Everything Nic Stone and Angie Thomas said at their Charis Books-sponsored conversation at Friends School of Atlanta in Decatur on February 9 was something I needed to hear. From talking about how if a black girl sells drugs she gets thrown in jail versus her white counterparts who “would get a slap on the wrist for it” and how you define yourself, not someone else.

Celebrating the launch of her new novel, “On The Come Up,” Thomas was interviewed on stage by fellow best-selling YA novelist and “Dear Martin” author Nic Stone in front of a capacity crowd.

I’d heard Thomas say that there weren’t many authors that looked like her (meaning that there weren’t as many black authors in the industry) and how she wanted to be the person to speak up. Thomas also mentioned that people are really quick to assume things about black women.

For example, Thomas said, “Not all black people look like alike.” She illustrated this by describing the difference between Bri, the main character in “On The Come Up,” and Starr, the main character in “The Hate U Give.” Even though both characters live in the same fictional neighborhood of Garden Heights, she made a point that there could be two black girls living in the same neighborhood, but that doesn’t mean that they’re the same person, pointing to the fact that not all black people are “loud” and “rowdy.”

There was one thing Thomas said about fear and how doing something that scares you when you know it’s hard is one of the best things you can do. I think hearing that is better than any “keep trying you’ll get it, eventually” cookie-cutter advice.

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So I really wanted to just thank you,  Angie Thomas. I had heard the phrase, “don’t let anyone define your personality,” a couple of times before, and hearing it a third time at this event made it really stick in my head. Hearing that actually made me believe that doing something you are scared of can be worth it. Speaking up, for example, can be the most nerve-racking and courageous thing anybody can do, myself included.

That in itself can be scary, so doing that even though it may feel very odd in the process is important.

Angie Thomas made the point that I can be the angry black girl and I don’t need anyone else to define my personality for me. So thank you.

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