Tonight, the remaining minutes hit zero on my first audiobook, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I cannot applaud this work enough. Everyone go out to your closest library, bookstore, or online book cove, and get your copy of The Hate U Give.
Writing about a book I heard is disorienting. At first, I was not sure how to spell the name of the main character, but I could hear her sobbing into her mother’s chest, racing her brothers down the hallway of their new home, or cracking up when her boyfriend sings the Fresh Prince theme.
Starr Carter, performed by Bahni Turpin in the audiobook, is at the center of the epidemic of young black lives being stolen by police brutality. She lives in Garden Heights, which is just as much located in Omaha, as Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, or anywhere else (an important choice by Angie Thomas; Garden Heights is everywhere. It is your city, and it is mine too). This book has been read by many and seen as a motion picture by even more. I suggest sitting down with this book, reading or listening, because there is so much more in the thoughts of Starr than can be displayed on the big screen.
A Similar Narrative
Last summer while working at Girls Inc. in North and South Omaha, I met a a few young women with stories similar to Starr. Living in North Omaha, but sent to a catholic school in another neighborhood by their parents. Safer schools and after school/summer programming at Girls Inc., meant safety and a straight shot to university with scholarships.
Just like Starr, these girls live in two worlds, a foot in each. They showed me how they knew North Omaha like the back of their hand when a speaker came to discourage the use of drugs and alcohol. He asked them to name how many stores in their neighborhood sold liquor and how many sold fresh produce. The girls could give a full list, block by block, of each business. These young women would wear the same R.I.P. shirts that Starr mentions because they too have lost friends and family, far too young to this violence that “makes no sense,” as Starr puts it.
When listening to The Hate U Give, I was reminded of these young women. They are committed to academic success. They have invested themselves in bettering their community by mentoring younger girls. They are angry at the injustice around them. They are also children, and they deserve our protection.
Listening to The Hate U Give was important to me, because when I read to myself, I internalize passages from my perspective as a white woman. By listening to Bahni Turpin, I was able to hear Starr, a strong black woman sharing her story.
T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E. – The Hate U Give Little Infants F***s Everybody
The Hate U Give is told from the perspective of Starr. She weaves in her every thought on police, media, gangs, drugs, and activism as she processes the murder of one of her best childhood friends, Khalil, by a police officer who made a deadly assumption.
Starr’s father and mother are highly protective and invested in their daughter’s success and safety, sending her to a private school 45 minutes away from Garden Heights. When Khalil is killed, Starr’s parents do everything in their power to protect and comfort her, but also encourage her that if she wants to speak out, as the sole eyewitness, they will be there to support her. Starr’s parents promote activism in their children; Malcolm X being her father’s favorite.
We walk slowly to the kitchen. Black Jesus hangs from the cross in a painting on the hallway wall, and Malcolm X holds a shotgun in a photograph next to him. Nana still complains about those pictures hanging next to each other.Angie Thomas The Hate U Give, Chapter 3
Maverick, Starr’s father, taught her the Black Panther’s Ten Point Program, asking Starr to repeat different points from the program from memory. many times over
1. We Want Freedom. We Want Power To Determine
The Destiny Of Our Black Community.
We believe that Black people will not be free until we are able to determine our destiny.
7. We Want An Immediate End To
Police Brutality And Murder Of Black People.
We believe we can end police brutality in our Black community by organizing Black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our Black community from racist police oppression and brutality.Black Panther’s Ten-Point Program, referenced in Chapter 18
Following the shooting, Starr watched her family be targeted by the police because Starr’s testimony of the shooting was the only potential threat to the police officer, who murdered Khalil, walking free. When Starr’s father was harassed by the police just days after the shooting, Starr saw an anger and pain in her father’s eyes that she had never seen before. It reminded her of something her father had told her:
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.Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give, Chapter 11
Starr is complex and compelling narrator as can be observed from the previous quote. She is dynamic in that she learns so much throughout the book’s twenty-six chapters. When Starr first heard that her childhood friend Khalil might have been selling, she responded:
How could he sell the very stuff that took his mama away from him? Did he realize that he was taking someone else’s mama from them? Does he realize that if he does become a hashtag, some people will only see him as a drug dealer? He was so much more than that.Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give, Chapter 4
As Starr uncovers more complexities to why Khalil resorted to selling, her understanding of her community changes. Her awakening is rooted in the book’s namesake THUG LIFE (the hate u give little infants f***s everybody, from a Tupac song playing in Khalil’s car right before he took his last breath).
Additionally, Starr explores how race affects her close school friendships and relationships with Hailey, Maya, and Chris. Starr weights how her friendships might be problematic following the shooting. She reevaluates her tolerance for her friend’s racism and ignorance and her role as one of the few black women at her private school.
They act like I’m the official representative of the black race and they owe me an explanation. I think I understand though. If I sit out a protest, I’m making a statement, but if they sit out a protest, they look racist.Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give, Chapter 11
The Hate U Give is required reading. This book is accessible yet eloquent. It will bring a tear to your eye (or sobs) and remind you that service is the price we pay for living (idea taken from @Michelle Obama’s Becoming). We need to yell louder, because people are dying. Donate. Rally. Scream. Black Lives Matter.