“That’s the problem. 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 in having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in the moments you shouldn’t be?”
Have you ever read a book and known the moment you picked it up that it will change the way you see the world? The Hate U Give did that for me, allowing a heartbreaking insight into the pain and the struggle that the black community faces each and every day. The Hate U Give follows the story of Starr, a young girl whose world is turned upside down after she becomes the only witness to a police shooting of her friend, Khalil, dealing with her grief as she tries to navigate the internal struggle about the core of her identity and the power of her voice along the way.
For a young adult novel, this book deals with some really serious stuff. I’ve already quoted one of the most powerful moments of the novel for me, but there was another that stood out; “Daddy once told me there’s a rage passed down to every black man from his ancestors, born the moment theycouldn’t stop the slave masters from hurting their families”. The Hate U Give explores this pain in all its complexities. It includes interesting insights in protesting for all the wrong reasons, Starr’s experience of colourism, and the identity crisis of two worlds colliding (Starr’s heavily white private school vs Garden Heights, her home town run almost entirely by drug kingpins and gangs).
Starr’s journey of trying to understand the two sides of herself and the collision of these personalities towards the end of the book was one of my favourite overarching themes. We learn very early on that at her private school (and in other instances such as the police interview after Khalil’s murder) she changes the way she speaks so she isn’t written off as being ‘hood’; she wants to be taken seriously and has to adapt herself to do so. Starr is rejected by her black friends for attending an expensive private school. She is rejected by her white friends simply for being black, suffering microaggressions and racist comments regularly (don’t even get me started on Hailey…) Starr also feels guilty for dating her white boyfriend, Chris, feeling as though she is betraying who she is by doing so. It was really empowering watching Starr come to terms with who she is and learning how to use her voice.
The media representation of Khalil was incredibly frustrating, watching as they latched onto the undesirable aspects of his life instead of depicting who he really was as a person and the chain of events that led to his death. This book also presented an interesting insight into gang culture and how easy it is to become wrapped up in it; DeVante’s journey was a device used to demonstrate this. It explained the concept adapted from TuPac’s THUG LIFE (The Hate U Give Little Infants F*cks Everyone) and how the system is rigged against black people in a clearer way than I have ever seen it explained before.
Frankly, I adored this book as much as it broke my heart. I know I will read it time and time again and learn something different from it every time I pick it up. The ending completely shattered me and left me feeling all kinds of angry about the injustice of the world. The Hate U Give demonstrates exactly why it is so important to read fiction (as well as non-fiction) to learn about the struggle of cultural minorities from their own perspective using their own voices. Next time you see this book on a bookshop shelf please pick it up, I hope that it will help you to understand in the same way it has helped me. Thank you Angie Thomas for blessing the world with this book.