“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
This is the most important book for American literature in 2017. In fact, I would go further in saying that this novel deserves the same respect, appreciation, and academic and general popularity as those by Toni Morrison, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Zadie Smith just to name a few. Angie Thomas’ powerful story about police brutality, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the too many young Black men and women who have lost their lives and innocence to police brutality in the U.S. is impossible to put down.
The novel titled “The Hate U Give”, which Thomas explains in the novel as a Tupac Shakur’s acrostic definition of ‘Thug’ on the one hand highlights the cyclical nature of gang violence, crime, and poverty in Black communities, and on the other hints at a much more powerful philosophic message of self-love, care, and change within Black communities across America.
I listened to the novel as audio-book through Audible. Performed by the amazing Bahni Turpin, this novel felt like I was sitting down with an old friend. It is hard to stop listening. It should be hard to stop listening to these types of stories. We should never stop listening to these stories. Although “The Hate U Give” is supposed to be a fictional account of events, it rings too true for the world.
When I finished this book I tried to think about when I first heard about such police brutality in the U.S. or even in my home country, Australia. The problem was, I couldn’t remember a definitive moment where a name or even stuck out. Sadly, it was something that had always been with me. It was something I had always heard of, something that was always there. For the U.S., databases run by The Guardian like The Counted show the number of people killed by police along with extra information about age, gender, race, etc. Australia has similar watches put in place by news services. The numbers that tick over on these sorts of counters make my heart sore and my head heavy.
When I compare my own experiences of poverty, dysfunctional families, violence, drugs, and struggle with other stories, fictional or otherwise, a continuous trend appears from those people who are looking in from the outside. They think that all the aforementioned problems can be solved in some sort of binary: get a job = no more poverty; move away from poor suburbs = safety and prospects; stop drinking = sobriety; leave your abuser = violence ends… In case you’re wondering. It isn’t that simple. Intertwined in Thomas’ narrative is the struggle to stay true to your roots—black, poor, and/or everything inbetween—and still find a way to make a positive change without losing yourself, your voice, or those you love. Thomas’ narrative shows that race, love, death, violence, and ‘Thug’ life is not all it seems to be. I would argue further, that it is high time we stopped thinking we knew how to fix things before we truly understand what the problems are.
How can we do that, you might ask?
Start with this book. Read it again and again. Give it to friends, give it to family. Give it to your neighbours, give this book to your dog! Let names like Mrs Dhu, Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner become stones that are turned over and over and over in your mind until they form a sharp, unforgiving edge of resistance.
“I can’t change where I come from or what I’ve been through, so why should I be ashamed of what makes me, me?”
It is hard to talk about all the beautiful moments of this book in just one article. The book is razor-sharp, hilarious, and beautiful. Have you read “The Hate U Give”? What did you love about the book? As always, remember to share the reading love.