THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas is a young adult novel inspired by Black Lives Matter. The Hate U Give is about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances and addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty.
It covers race relations from the viewpoint of a young African American girl named Starr Carter living in two different worlds who is thrust into a tragedy and forced to take a stand.
It is pretty interesting that you chose this novel yourselves. As students of English as a second language you are certainly interested in getting to know more about some aspects of the American culture not generally tackled in textbooks, right?
This is a video summery of the novel for those of you out there who are curious about this novel. Mind you, it is a spoiler, so skip the video if you want to read the novel:
So let’s start our investigation, which does not mean we will be able to figure out the complexity of the issues developed in the novel.
Regardless of the States having been through the Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King and having had President Obama as their leader from 2009 to 2017, the country is still afflicted by great injustices and the problem of racism seems not to be relenting.
As a matter of fact PrinceEa created this video to make a statement against racism and make us understand that the term “race” was coined to divide people and that biologically there is just one race, the HUMAN RACE.
Angie Thomas was clearly inspired by Tupac’s music, poetry, and words when writing The Hate U Give. Read Tupac’s poem below and think about how it relates to The Hate U Give. Read it and then think of the following questions:
What is the rose in Tupac’s poem a metaphor for?
What does the concrete represent?
Who are the “roses” in The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas? Give five examples of “roses” in The Hate U Give, and explain what extra challenges each face while trying to grow.
“The Rose That Grew From Concrete” by Tupac Shakur
Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it
learned to walk without having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.
The Rose symbolizes a man while the concrete stands for the ghetto. There’s no way a rose flower would grow from a concrete. This means that it’s very hard for a man to survive the hard life of the ghetto and also makes something out of himself. Nevertheless, man can still survive if he’s ready to swim against the nature’s law. Man has to keep his dreams and goals alive in order to survive the harsh realities of life. He should also be very confident in his own abilities in order to reach his goals. If man continues to persevere, he’ll get to a place far away from the ghetto where he’ll never face problems anymore. He’ll then be able to achieve his goals and aspirations.
Starr in THUG has had to face all the challenges that come with poverty, as well as the daily violence in her community. She has also had to deal with the trauma of seeing two of her best friends murdered. Despite these immense challenges, Starr has managed to become an intelligent, thoughtful, conscientious person with a promising future.
Pac said Thug Life stood for “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody. T-H-U-G-L-I-F-E. Meaning what society gives us as youth, it bites them in the ass when we wild out. Get it?”
In an interview with Cosmo, Angie Thomas said “When we were trying to figure out a title for the book, I came across a YouTube clip of him discussing THUG LIFE. […] When I when I saw him explain what it means, it hit me that that’s not just in my book, but that’s what we see in society. When these unarmed black people lose their lives, the hate they’ve been given screws us all. We see it in the form of anger and we see it in the form of riots. So when I saw that in the video, it was like a sign.”
Though It’s obvious that that title The Hate U Give came from Tupac, there are many other hidden places in the book that Tupac inspired!
When deciding on a name for her main character, Angie drew inspiration from The Greatest himself. Though Tupac never had a daughter, he always claimed that he would name his daughter Starr. In a way, Starr is a tribute to the life of Tupac, and the daughter he never had. And in case you missed it- Starr sports a bandana on the cover of THUG, which can only be attributed to ‘Pac’s signature look.
While writing the book, Angie claims to have listened to Tupac’s words of wisdom for inspiration. She says that in a way, Tupac and hip-hop showed her who she was- and aims to do the same for black youth with The Hate U Give. Tupac helped Angie to realize that her story mattered. That black stories matter. His revolutionary spirit and Activism allowed for Angie’s new perspective.
“You got make a change. It’s time for us as a people to start making some changes, let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live, and let’s change the way we treat each other. You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us, to do what we gotta do to survive.” – Tupac Shakur
The book was inspired by Tupac Shakur and also by the Black Lives Matter movement, the social protest movement against “the disproportionate impact of state violence on Black lives” emerged to develop into an influential social and political force.
Police brutality is the term for abuse of authority committed by police when they employ excessive force; it is particularly used in the context of unwarranted violence towards minorities.
The international activist moment Black Lives Matter (BLM) was created in response to such police brutality. The movement began in 2013 after the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter spread on Twitter following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a white man, after he shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen. BLM gained national recognition for street protests following the police-perpetrated deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City. Since Ferguson, the movement has protested the deaths of black men and women in police shootings and in police custody.
BLM is part of a larger, polarized national debate on police brutality and racial profiling (the act of suspecting or targeting a person of a certain race on the basis of observed or assumed characteristics or behavior of a racial or ethnic group, rather than on individual suspicion).
The following video explains what the Black Lives Matter movement means and why it should matter to us all, regardless of our ethnicity or where we live:
What does it mean to be black in the USA? (and I would add in Italy too)
The novel introduces us to something we have never been subjected to “Giving the Talk”. Well, as a 52 year old woman I was given the talk by my parents as to the risks of being a woman, what I had to be wary of, etc. Don’t know whether you young female adolescents were being given a talk like mine too. I just know that “being given the talk” makes you feel DIFFERENT!, Yes, different. What are the repercussions of being given the talk? Watch and think about this? We should be worthy of existing without fear. FEAR limits our very being. The value of our lives is determined by who we are, period.
What is the Talk in the black community?
Parents are used to having important talks with their kids. But for parents of kids of color, one of the hardest conversations is when their children must learn they will be treated differently simply because of the color of their skin.
What impact does this talk have on a child?
See what young black men explain the particular challenges they face growing up in America.
Code switching is another term we are being introduced to in the novel. It means the practice of changing one’s language, dialect or speaking style to better fit one’s environment. But what does it really mean when referred to a black person?
Here you can read the first chapters of the novel, to see whether you are interested in delving into the text. The videos you can find here can help you get a glimpse into the relevance of this novel in contemporary USA. The video clips are taken from the film adaptation, but the author herself poses relevant questions.
Amanda Johnston wrote the poem Facing US after Yusef Komunyakaa’s poem ‘Facing It.’
Through Komunyakaa’s poem, the reader witnesses a black veteran facing his past in the Vietnam War at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. She wanted to use the structure of that poem to look at the state sponsored war on black people in the United States.
after Yusef Komunyakaa
My black face fades,
hiding inside black smoke.
I knew they’d use it,
dammit: tear gas.
I’m grown. I’m fresh.
Their clouded assumption eyes me
like a runaway, guilty as night,
chasing morning. I run
this way—the street lets me go.
I turn that way—I’m inside
the back of a police van
again, depending on my attitude
to be the difference.
I run down the signs
half-expecting to find
my name protesting in ink.
I touch the name Freddie Gray;
I see the beat cop’s worn eyes.
Names stretch across the people’s banner
but when they walk away
the names fall from our lips.
Paparazzi flash. Call it riot.
The ground. A body on the ground.
A white cop’s image hovers
over us, then his blank gaze
looks through mine. I’m a broken window.
He’s raised his right arm
a gun in his hand. In the black smoke
a drone tracking targets:
No, a crow gasping for air.
Copyright © 2018 by Amanda Johnston. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
These are poets who used the power of their pens and voices to protest against the fierce discrimination against black people in the USA:
An emotional presentation of a poem about what it means to be black in America today
And a slam poem responding to the criticism of the expression “Black Lives Matter” because it implies slanting other ethnicities, thus the new term “All Lives Matter”.
I want to leave you with the strong message of Dr. Maya Angelou
and the necessity to speak out for oneself and for the others (that is against injustice).