The Hate U Give


Why do we Americans travel the world looking for engagement with other cultures when we have one right here, different from ours, exotic even, and instead of engaging, we put a police barricade around it?  I just finished reading, The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, a YA novel about an African-American high school girl, Starr Carter.  Her daddy, Big Mav, is a store owner but used to be a gang member who served three years in prison for not snitching on the “boss”.  Her momma, Lisa is a nurse at the local clinic and the bedrock of the family who manages the house like a drill sergeant.  Her family is blended in a way that most mothers would not tolerate, but Lisa does it for the kids.  

Starr goes to Williamson Prep, a mostly white, upper crust school because her parents want their children to be safe and get a good education.  Starr lives in Garden Heights, a mostly black, lower socio-economic neighborhood where gangs rule and shootings aren’t accidental.  Even though her parents could move, her dad thinks that not giving up on the neighborhood is the right thing to do.  Starr loves The Fresh Prince, dates a white boy from school, and plays basketball like a pro.  Since she’s been at Williamson, her two best friends are white, but they never come to her house.  She’s moved away, emotionally, from her Garden Heights friends and struggles with keeping the two sides of her life separate.  When Starr was 10, she witnessed her friend, Natasha, killed in a drive-by shooting, an incident that left indelible ink on her psyche. 

One night Starr’s at a party in Garden Heights with her friend, Kenya, with whom she shares a brother, Seven.  Her parents don’t allow her to go to Garden Heights’ parties so this outing is on the DL.  While there she meets up with Kahlil, her childhood BFF and first crush.  A short time into their re-acquaintance convo, shots ring out and the party disperses mad fast in all directions.  Kahlil grabs Starr’s hand and since she doesn’t see Kenya anywhere, Starr leaves in Kahlil’s car.  The kids are rattled, but manage to get away from the party intact.  They resume their catch up conversation:  Starr asks if Kahlil is selling drugs (he denies it); they talk about their families; they remember how they used to be such good friends; and all is well until they get pulled over by a cop.   When Starr was 12 she got two talks from her parents:  one about sex and the other about what to do when interacting with the police — “yes, sir,” “no, sir,” slow movements, do what the cop says or end up dead, and on.  As a result, Starr instinctively knows what to do.

Either Kahlil never got this talk from his family or he just can’t stick to the script because instead of handing over his license and registration as the cop asked, Kahlil asks the cop why they’ve been pulled over.  The annoyed officer — 11-15 as Starr will later refer to him — instructs Kahlil to stand still next to the car.  While 11-15 checks out Kahlil’s license, Kahlil opens the car door to ask Starr if she’s okay.  And that’s all it takes to end a life.  Three shots to the back — pop, pop, pop — and Kahlil’s dead.  Starr screams and rushes to Kahlil but there’s no help for him.  The cop freaks out and points his gun at Starr where it stays until backup arrives.  Later the cop will say he thought the hairbrush in the side of the door was a gun, but that doesn’t change Kahlil’s fate.  If you think I just gave the book away, well, that’s only the first two chapters.  

What Thomas does with the remaining 24 chapters is nothing short of poetry.  If you want to understand racism in America from the African-American perspective then read, The Hate U Give. The book sizzles with excitement and emotion, and despite the YA moniker, it’s not just a teen read.  I repeatedly thought about my own kids’ experiences growing up white in America and what I would do as a parent if I had to give that second talk, the one African-American parents are forced to give, and what it would sound like.  The feeling of helplessness, of being unable to protect your child out in the world, must be overwhelming, but the lack of vision from the white community is what would anger me the most. 

The title of The Hate U Give comes from Tupac Shakur.  Thug Life, Volume 1 (1994), is the name of an album, but THUG LIFE is also the name of an idea:  The Hate U Give Little Infants F@$%s Everyone.    

Thug Life refers, obviously, to how white America treats black America from infancy through adulthood, how children grow up to marginalized by society with fewer opportunities for advancement (recent studies show black males will always make less, even if they come from high income families), how the marginalization turns kids to gangs, how gang violence hurts everyone, and over and over in a cyclical loop.  I don’t know the answer to solving this century-and-a-half old problem for which there’s no today solution, and you won’t find it in the book, but understanding and awareness on both sides of the aisle is a good place to start.  Sadly, Tupac didn’t live long enough to see his work have much impact in the world.  He died on September 13, 1996 at the age of 25, the victim of a drive-by shooting.  

The fear and anger that fuels such systemic violence will never be abated unless we all stop and take stock of how we are complicit in this never-ending racial drama. Want to change the future?  Then start with the present otherwise the future will look exactly the same only the alienation and altercations between the races will have only worsened.  As Angie Thomas says in the acknowledgements section of the book, “be roses that grow in the concrete.”  The Hate U Give is an endearing and clear-eyed look at growing up African-American in this country, a look at both the roses and thorns.

pjlazos 5.6.18

About Pam Lazos

writer, blogger, environmentally hopeful
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36 Responses to The Hate U Give

  1. Sophia Ismaa says:

    What an amazing review! I love how you’ve approached it without any white fragility and actually acknowledged the full spectrum of racism in America. Much respect to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! Now I want to really the book. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Taylor says:

    This is an amazing post. I am currently reading this book and I’m so glad I came across this post. Very moving and meaningful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas | A Thousand Finds

  5. Pingback: Mystery Blogger Award: Take Three – The Jaguar

  6. What a powerful story. All I could think of was Milwaukee and my time on the North Side, where tragedies like this could happen so damn easily. Thank you for spreading the word on this one, Friend. This is definitely a must-read. 🙂 x

    Liked by 2 people

    • pjlazos says:

      Thanks, Jean. 🙏 I lived in Philadelphia for a decade and still work there, and while it’s not without its problems — the “MOVE” riots were only a couple decades ago — it does appear to me, at least from my vantage point, to be a city trying to heal its racial divides. I think the process just takes a long time. So we keep praying for reconciliation, both inner and outer. 😘 pam

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sounds like a great book and I love the title. It’s so sad that the race thing keeps going on. I’m so tired of it having lived in Los Angeles during the 60s riots, It’s way past time for society to grow up and all of us be one race–the human race.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Sounds like a rough, but good read. It’s definitely on my “soon, please?” list! Great review.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. hilarymb says:

    Hi PJ – thanks for this … I’ve noted the book and will I’m sure read it sometime soon … you’ve given us an excellent review – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 3 people

  10. What a great review. Thanks for introducing me to this book!

    Liked by 3 people

  11. MariHoward says:

    Very moving piece: here (UK) we are experiencing an escalation of racial violence (I suspect connected to so-called “Brexit”, which has exposed a lot of racial intolerance and anti-immigrant feelings.) I cried (nearly) reading about the book. We have a partly Afro-Carrabian grandchild. That makes me very aware. The view of ‘black is bad’ is horrible. Our slave trade was horrible. Thanks for posting: I may well buy the book.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Susan Scott says:

    Thanks for this Pam – as you say it’s a book for adults and YA. Thank heavens for these voices that are not afraid to expose this ugly dynamic. I’m thinking of MLK, James Baldwin and the like. Last evening I watched 12 Years a Slave, based on a true story. It was totally gut wrenching even though I’m familiar with the history of the slave trade. And of course with the injustices here in our country during the apartheid regime. And injustice to all who have a different race, creed, culture from the prevailing patriarchal one … usually economically driven. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    • pjlazos says:

      Thanks, Susan. It’s odd that most people think it’s got wrenching, but it still persists. What will it take for everyone to have an equal playing field or is that something that humanity’s not capable of? 😩

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Ken Dowell says:

    The sad part is that while I’m reading your description of the first two chapters of The Hate You Give, I forgot that what I was reading about is fiction.

    Liked by 5 people

  14. That is a wonderful review Pam! I’m inclined to think that one of the positives coming out of your current political situation is the exposure of much that has been hidden or ignored before – and this particular subject is right up there. Being willing to acknowledge there is a problem is the first step towards change isn’t it. I’ve put this book on my tbr list.

    Liked by 5 people

    • pjlazos says:

      You definitely won’t regret the time spent. Truly endearing and eye opening. And I believe you’re right about the political situation, tough pill as it is to swallow. :0)

      Liked by 3 people

  15. says:

    Brilliant !!

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Hi there, PJ. Race is, and has been, a complex issue in our country. Obviously. In my adult life I’ve worked mostly in organizations that employ high percentages of blacks and whites. And most people, as far as I could tell, got along quite well. I think that there (maybe) is more understanding than there used to be by whites of the obstacles many blacks face. But this country still has a very long way to go.

    Neil S.

    Liked by 4 people

    • pjlazos says:

      Very true, Neil, and until the economic divide gets fixed, not much will change. My dad used to say, “It’s not about black and white, but who has the most green.” :0) Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 3 people

  17. This sounds amazing, P. J.! I’ve been reading a lot of Toni Morrison and James Baldwin over the last four or five years, and as amazing (heartwrenching and shocking and un-effing-believable sometimes, but amazing in how the words are put together, how the frustration and tragedy is woven in so tightly) as these two are, I think we do need modern voices, voices that brim with today’s experience, in order to, maybe, finally, put an end to the whole thing. For many people I’ve spoken to, it seems all too easy to dismiss Morrison’s and Baldwin’s horrific stories as a thing of the past, especially for those who live outside of the US, and to believe that the stuff on the news is isolated incidents, the exception rather than the rule. To move forward, into a future where racism really is a thing of the past, we need to keep the narrative present.

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ll look for it.
    Guilie @ Life In Dogs

    Liked by 5 people

    • pjlazos says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Guilie! Yes, we all too often resort to characterizing things as isolated or of the past when it’s happening as much as before, just less overtly. Here’s to equal justice for all!😘

      Liked by 1 person

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