Read and Resist: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Welcome to Read and Resist, a blog series where I review books that amplify marginalized voices and address social justice issues. This includes fiction and non-fiction books (especially #OwnVoices), so if you have any suggestions, please let me know!

hateugive_10-10snapI did not know much about The Hate U Give when it was released, but I remember having two immediate reactions. First, I thought, Everyone seems to love it. I must read it. Then I asked myself why the author used ‘U’ instead of the word ‘you.’ Like the grammar snob I am, I was annoyed at the title…but not annoyed enough to refuse to read it. It was, after all, a book. Hermione and Belle can never resist a new book, and neither can I.

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Please take a moment to appreciate the fact I used this GIF because Emma Watson plays Hermione and Belle.

Fortunately, my co-worker and fellow book lover loaned me her copy of The Hate U Give.  She had told me that the book was about racism, but I had no idea how absolutely relevant and poignant the plot would be–especially in our current political climate. As soon as I read the description, I was heartbroken:

 “Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.”

The plot is clearly inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, and so I thought I would be reading a book about things I already knew. I told myself that I was white, but I wasn’t like those white people.

How wrong I was.

My thinking still reeked of white privilege–and I’m so glad that The Hate U Give was there to knock it down.

 

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Khalil is shot within the first few chapters of the book. He is driving, and Starr is in the front seat. When a cop pulls them over, Khalil is obviously agitated. He talks back to the officer a few times; still, he does not exhibit any threatening behaviors. He is unarmed.  It’s obvious the cop is wrong, and still, I found myself wondering if there is anything that Khalil could have done differently. But like so many his real-life counterparts, Khalil was innocent of any crime.

Khalil did not deserve to die. Period. 

Starr’s life is seemingly full of contradictions. As one of the few black students at her school, Starr has a lot of white friends; her boyfriend is also white, and they are often blissfully unaware of what Starr endures on a regular basis. As she explains: “It’s dope to be black until it’s hard to be black.” While she often finds herself unable to express her pain–especially after Khalil’s death–it’s clear that her enemy is not white people. Her enemy is racism and white supremacy, and these are evils that creep into all of our lives. These evils should be my enemy, too.

Similarly, Starr’s uncle is a police officer. Uncle Carlos is like Starr’s second father, and again, the book is made clear that you can hate a system without hating its people. More specifically, you can support Black Lives Matter and police officers. In an interview, author Angie Thomas explains:

“A lot of people are quick to say that saying “black lives matter” makes you anti-cop. All lives should indeed matter but we have a systemic problem in this country in which black lives do not matter enough. This not an anti-cop book. I intentionally made Starr’s uncle a cop because I have law enforcement in my family and I understand the struggle that black cops deal with particularly. One [relative] told me, “Well, in the uniform, I’m a sellout to some of my own people, but outside of the uniform, I’m seen as a suspect.” That’s a constant struggle for some of them and I wanted to show someone in law enforcement who holds other officers accountable. At one point in the book, Carlos [Starr’s uncle] says, ‘You shouldn’t be a cop if your first instinct is to shoot someone.’ I think the more we see more officers holding each other accountable, the more we will see people trust cops in this country.”

And the ‘U’ in the title? There is a reason for that, too. Khalil and Starr are listening to 2Pac songs when Khalil explains how truly revolutionary the artist was:

“Man, get outta here! Tupac was the truth.”
“Yeah, twenty years ago.”
“Nah, even now. Like, check this.” He points at me, which means he’s about to go into one of his Khalil philosophical moments. “‘Pac said Thug Life stood for ‘The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody.”
I raise my eyebrows. “What?”
“Listen! The Hate U – the letter U – Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody. T-H-U-G L-I-F-E. Meaning what society give us as youth, it bites them in the ass when we wild out. Get it?”
“Damn. Yeah.”

As the story develops,  the meaning of ‘THUG LIFE” becomes even more important. So, yeah. I can stop being such an asshole about grammar.

The Hate U Give is a difficult and honest book; yet, I found myself reading for hours at a time. Starr feels more like a friend than a narrator, and the book is unexpectedly hilarious at times (the constant High School Musical and Harry Potter references had me especially giddy). While The Hate U Give  was written for the young adult market, its message is not limited to teens. It is for all of us.

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i heart new york

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Photo by Tom Ritson on Unsplash

No other place has quite pulled at my heart like New York. My love for the sprawling, impossible city started with a key chain. 

Dad had just returned from a business trip; it was lucky, really, because I was still at that age where I selfishly expected gifts from my parents when they traveled without us. When we arrived at the airport, Dad handed me a keychain shaped like the Manhattan skyline. It was just for me, and I proudly clipped the tiny golden city to my backpack. Like so many other dreamers, I made myself a promise: one day, I would see New York City.

The keychain is long gone, but I kept my promise. I visited New York for the first time when I was fifteen, and have been fortunate enough to see it again. In 2017, I was in New York twice for work; last week, though, I took a trip just for fun.

Our good friend R.T. invited Drew and I to come to New York with him and his wife, Holly. Drew had never been to New York, and I’m never going to turn down a travel opportunity–so we accepted the invite and booked our flights a few weeks later.

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We stayed in an Airbnb in Bushwick, a neighborhood in Brooklyn that is famous for its community of artists. On every corner, we saw beautiful and delightfully quirky street art.

We made ourselves at home in Brooklyn, but our first order of business was Broadway.

We all attended the matinee showing of Mean Girls–and it was a dream come true. As a die-hard fan of the film (I mean, who isn’t?), I had extremely high expectations. The musical captured the original story’s hilarity as well as its heart, and the audience cheered during some of the most iconic lines.

Drew also ordered us cocktails: “Burn Book” and “Is Butter A Carb?” We even got to keep the cups!

And yes, we wore pink. I mean, come on. It was a Wednesday, and we had to look fetch.

After dinner (and, let’s be honest, a few beers), it was time for our second musical: Avenue Q! The show is off-Broadway now, but that shouldn’t stop you. It’s freakin’ hilarious and probably one of the best commentaries on adulthood that I have ever seen. Don’t bring your kids, though. It will be really, really awkward. Trust me.

The next day, we had one goal: food. R.T. was determined to get some Joe’s Pizza.

While we were eating, a local New Yorker overheard us discussing pizza. You know. Like you do in New York. He recommended several places, including one down the street, and as soon as we finished Joe’s, we headed down Bleecker St. to Fiore’s. This was my favorite of the pizzas, but Drew and R.T. remain loyal to Joe’s.

But it was all delicious. So much pizza. So much happiness.

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Then, something truly magical happened. “Don’t freak out,” R.T. said, “But there’s a cookie dough place across the street.”

Well, we freaked out, and had to grab some cookie dough soon as we finished our pizza. World’s Best Cookie Dough offers freshly baked cookies, raw cookie dough, and milkshakes. We became BFFs with one of the employees and Drew discovered his new favorite cookie. The only downside is now every kind of cookie dough is slightly disappointing. And I’ll never have a milkshake that good ever again.

Even though we decided to skip a few classic tourist spots, like the Empire State Building, we had fun exploring Times Square (The Disney Store is top-notch!) and Central Park. We also made a day trip to see Statue of Liberty! I had never seen it up close, and the trip was definitely worth it. If you decide to visit Liberty Island, beware of scammers–there is only one official ticket vendor.

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Later that night, we decided to have dinner at Lips. This was by far one of my favorite parts of the whole trip: drag queens put on a show while you eat and enjoy cocktails. We probably enjoyed too many cocktails–if there is such a thing at a drag show.

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Our bank accounts say there is such a thing. WHATEVER, BANKS. We got these cool rings with our drinks. So who’s laughing now?!

We were there for diva night, which meant the queens performed as Cher, Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston, Joan Rivers, Lady Gaga, and Madonna. They were all incredible. If you’re jealous, don’t worry–there are several locations throughout the US. Just don’t forget to make reservations, and bring cash so you can give the queens tips. Performing is still work!

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On our last day, we headed for Coney Island. Holly and I had both been dying to go, and we weren’t disappointed. It’s so delightfully weird, with just enough circus creepiness to make the whole park an adventure.

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The subway ride to Coney Island is no joke, so we were starving by the time we arrived. Drew and I ate more pizza, and then we stood in line at the famous Nathan’s Hot Dogs. As the sole vegetarian of the group, I skipped the hot dog and got a beer instead. I know. Poor me (#sarcasm). We also rode the legendary Wheel of Wonder and their roller coaster, the Cyclone. If you love theme park rides, they’re both worth the cost ($8 and $10, respectively). Drew and Holly weren’t fans of the Wheel of Wonder, but we all agreed the Cyclone was a blast.

Coney Island is definitely one of my new favorite places, and I hope that one day I get to go for the Mermaid Parade!

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He was helping me with the picture. Apparently. 

As always, New York was absolutely wonderful. No trip is ever the same, and I’m already looking forward to seeing it again. There are still a lot of pizza places and cookie dough flavors to try. ❤️