September 29, 2017
***updated April 15, 2020
The Hate U Give (THUG) and Other Diverse Reads
Today I’m offering a challenge for some of us to read outside our comfort zones. Does reading from a different point of view appeal to you? Do you wish you could include more diversity in your reading life? Would reading fiction that mirrors what you sometimes see on the nightly news interest you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I urge you to consider reading The Hate U Give. All books reviewed and recommended in this post focus on the theme of diversity, especially from the African-American perspective.
***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Genre/categories: YA fiction, racism, prejudice, social and family issues
Our sixteen-year-old main character, Starr, lives in a poor inner-city neighborhood and her mother drives her to an upper-middle-class private school miles across town for her education. Starr’s parents can afford to move out of the poorer neighborhood, but her dad, a former gang member and convict, believes it’s important to stay in the neighborhood to help solve the problems there and to be a role model and support for the young African-American males who desire to leave the gang life and pursue better options. Starr’s mother would like to move across town to the middle class more diverse neighborhood where Starr and her siblings attend a (predominately white) private school and where the family attends a “diverse” church “(she nicknames it “the diverse church). Starr manages to live between her two worlds of the Williamson private school crowd and her neighborhood friends. This causes her some stress because she feels she can’t totally be herself in either place. One night Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her unarmed childhood best friend by a police officer. The officer-involved shooting and her friend’s death make national headlines. Starr is faced with opinions and actions from both sides. Some reporters and private school friends say that the victim was a thug and perhaps a gang member and drug dealer and deserved to die. Friends in the neighborhood, including Starr who really knew the victim, defend him. As Starr faces her role as a witness, interrogation by the DA, involvement in protests, and publicity, she and her family also endure intimidation by the local drug lord (because if she testifies, she might incriminate him). Starr summons up all her courage so that her testimony and answers are honest and truthful to the best of her ability. What she says could endanger her life and cause further protests in the community. How will she use her voice? Amazon rating (September): 4.8
This is a challenging review to write as THUG is full of controversial and complex issues that require careful thought and, combined with the circumstances (and profanity), it can be a difficult read. Also, even though I enjoyed the book and was challenged by it, I had to think seriously about recommending it.
Do I recommend this book?
In bullet format, you will discover the reasons I’m recommending this book (in no particular order):
- THUG contains likable, memorable, and multidimensional characters. Starr’s parents’ relationship is especially encouraging and inspiring.
- This is an unforgettable, fast-paced, heartbreaking, thought-provoking, inspiring, tragic, and unputdownable story told from authentic voices.
- I think it’s important to challenge ourselves to read diverse literature and to listen well.
- The issues in this book occasionally appear in our nightly news.
- Experiencing a situation from the perspective of others that are different from us and hearing their voices informs our opinions and deepens our understanding.
- It gave me a new perspective on the allure of gangs.
- The story presented an interesting dilemma (as presented by Starr’s father and mother): should African Americans leave their inner-city neighborhood if they have that option or should they stay (and risk the consequences) to help their communities?
- I thought the author did an exceptional job of helping the reader understand code-switching. I was challenged with accepting Starr just as she was and wondered if I would have tried to change her if she were a part of my community. Particularly, I wondered as a teacher how accepting I was of African Americans (or my other students from other cultures) who brought their unique cultural expressions into my classroom. How much code-switching did my students feel was necessary? Did I try to change them to fit my (white middle class) idea of an ideal student? Or did I promote acceptance in my classroom and among their peers for them to be their authentic selves (hairstyle, clothing, expressions, etc.)? In Starr’s own words, code-switching is exhausting and she was an expert.
“I should be used to my two worlds colliding, but I never know which Starr I should be. I can use some slang, but not too much slang. Some attitude but not too much attitude, so I’m not a sassy black girl. I have to watch what I say and how I say it. But I can’t sound “white.” Sh*@# is exhausting.” ~Starr
- The Hate U Give contains important and hard-hitting themes such as the responsibility to our neighborhood, bravery, finding our voice, loyalty, racism, violence, poverty, helplessness, privilege, family values, anger, and hate.
- I think from news reports of similar situations we often are not getting the true stories from both sides. Although this story was told from Starr’s first-person point of view, I thought both sides were represented. In particular, Starr has a white boyfriend and it was interesting to have his interactions and perceptions as an integral part of the story.
- I thought religion was presented sincerely and authentically in this story and included as ordinary, natural, and meaningful in the life of the family and community. This was refreshing because often an author’s bias against religion is apparent.
- In the story, there is an incident of a mild and offhand racist comment made to a Chinese girl, Maya. As a result, she was more sympathetic to Starr’s situation because she had been a victim of a thoughtless racist comment. This illustrated to me that if we’ve never experienced racist comments personally, maybe reading about it happening to a beloved character can build empathy, understanding, and awareness. Starr’s reflection that came from that experience caused me to think about all the times I’ve heard something and said nothing:
“We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?” ~ Starr
- THUG is categorized as YA and I think it’s an important read for mature young adults and adults of any age. It opens the door to many important discussions and hard thinking about relevant topics. I think diverse literature is a great way to build compassion, understanding, and empathy for others.
- There will be ideas you disagree with in this book and content that’s uncomfortable and that’s ok! I still think they are ideas with which we need to wrestle. If the language doesn’t offend you, I think this would be an excellent selection for your book club. Perhaps the intent of the book is to start discussions.
- No matter how you feel about the Black Lives Matter movement, this book remains a worthwhile read. It’s important to hear from the African-American community in their own voices. #dontletthestrugglersbecomeahashtag
- Finally, don’t most of us want to read the book before the movie?!
The Hate U Give movie trailer.
The Hate U Give Movie.
*Alert: language (profanity), racial tension
Recommended: I can highly recommend this for mature young adults and for all adult readers as a discussion starter, a diverse literature pick (for many of us), and a book with contemporary and relevant topics.
My Rating: 5 Stars
***This post is linked up with Puppies and Pretties.
Meet the Author, Angie Thomas
Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She can also still rap if needed. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Myers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg set to star.
Following is a sampling of other diverse literature with a focus on racism that I’ve read and highly recommend. If I have reviewed it here on the blog, I’ve included the link. I’ve also included the Amazon link for additional information.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Daré
Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction (5+ Stars)
A young Nigerian girl fights for education and the right to be heard.
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Genre: Historical Fiction (4 Stars)
Slavery and the Underground Railroad.
Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
Genre: YA historical fiction (5 Stars)
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Genre: Adult Fiction (4 Stars)
The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe
Genre: Women’s Historical Fiction (4 Stars)
The first African-American woman to attend Vassar (passing as white).
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Genre: Historical Fiction (5 Stars)
Multi-generational saga tracing the impact of slavery for 2 sisters and their families from Ghana to America over 300+ years.
Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
(author of Secret Life of Bees)
Genre: Historical Fiction (5 Stars)
An unputdownable story of the Grimké sisters (Sarah and Angelina) and their slave, Hetty, as the sisters wrestle with the ideas of slavery and join the early abolitionist and women’s rights movements in the North. One of my favorite reads of recent years and a great book club selection.
The Kitchen House and
Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House
by Kathleen Grissom
Genre: Historical Fiction (both 5 Stars)
In The Kitchen House, a 7-year-old orphan from Ireland is placed with the slaves on a southern plantation. They become her family and she is raised in the slave culture. This gives her a unique perspective and voice. Glory Over Everything is a sequel of sorts (but it can be read as a stand-alone) and it follows the life of her nephew (from her black adopted sister) as he leaves the South and passes for white.
Stella by Starlight
by Sharon M. Draper
Genre: Middle School historical fiction (4 Stars)
If you’re looking for a diverse and historical fiction selection for middle-grade readers (ages 9-12), I recommend this poignant story of Stella’s experiences with racism and finding her own voice.
The Warmth of Other Suns
by Isabel Wilkerson
Genre: Narrative Nonfiction (5 Stars)
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson shares the stories of three individuals representing the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South from 1917 to 1970 for northern and western cities in search of a better life. This is known as the Great Migration. My husband was a history major and thoroughly enjoyed this story.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
I hope you have found this recommendation list of diverse reads useful and have found a new title to add to your TBR! In the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughtful and respectful reflections on The Hate U Give or any of the other selections. I’m always eager to hear about what you’re reading and your thoughts about diversity in your reading life! Did you add a new book to your TBR list?
Those of you who have read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, might enjoy this excellent review I stumbled upon this week: Read Review Here.
Do you like polls? Book Nerd Poll just for fun!
One last recommendation! I thought Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood by Lisa Damour sounded really good for parents or guardians or mentors/teachers of teenage girls!
Happy Reading Everyone!
“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes
“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text
Next week, I’m looking forward to reviewing Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (author of Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray). In two weeks, I’ll review Little Fires Everywhere, the new release by Celeste Ng (author of Everything I Never Told You).
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