December’s Book Club: The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give

I have to be honest and say that it took me most of the book to realize that “the hate u give” on the cover of this book was written out in a way that spelt thug vertically. Admittedly, this is a little embarrassing because we learn with Starr early on what Thug Life stands for. T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E. or The hate u give little infants fucks everybody is a powerful theme that is woven into this story organically on so many levels.

Hopefully this goes without saying but, Khalil being shot is a physical blow to the gut. This is the first time, and not the last, that I was grateful to be listening to this book instead of attempting to turn its pages. Thomas wrote this and many other scenes in such a way that I could feel Starr’s fear, anger and grief as though they were my own. This is also our first experience with the Thug Life theme, as at the time Starr thinks that Khalil has slipped into dealing drugs and soon after thinks that he joined a local gang.

The sad thing is, you can tell where the story is going to go. It doesn’t matter who Khalil was or what he was doing the night that he was MURDERED, the media quickly begins to spin the story that he was a drug dealer and a gang member. As you journey with Starr through decision to speak out and later protest, you can feel the struggle that she faces to have her truth heard. It’s assumed that Khalil was living the thug life and, as her so called best friend put it, was going to die anyway.

Her so called best friend said that Khalil was going to die anyway. How messed up is that? Or that people protested just to skip class? How about that the so called gun was a hair brush? Poor Starr is shoved into a thug life, or people giving her hate, from the moment that she decides to stand with Khalil. Yes she has a loving family to go back to, but it wasn’t a surprise when the verdict was given and she feels validated in wanting to mess things up.

In that moment, when Starr realizes how the hate that she has been given has the power to destroy her own community and decides to use her voice as a weapon, you can’t help but hope be proud of her. And, as she stands on top of a car surrounded by other protesters chanting Khalil lived!, it’s hard not to understand what’s happening in Portland and Chicago. The anger, the desire for change and the distrust in those who are supposed to be protecting you. There was no reason to throw tear gas. I’m not sure there is any reason to throw tear gas at protesters.

This book was hard to read (listen to). I felt as though my heart was being squeezed and the poet in my life had to resort to frequent hugs, to imagine myself as someone who has to actually live it brings even more heartbreak. I appreciated that Starr didn’t believe that she was being strong or brave, that she say it as doing what she needs to do. Perhaps it’s time to take a look at the people we are calling strong/brave and find better ways to support them. Preferably ways that don’t require them to be strong and brave.

The final thing I want to leave you with is the reminder that Starr said that she is not anti police and that she knows there are good ones out there. The point was not that police are bad, the point of this story was that there is no system in place that called for accountability. They put Khalil on trial instead of the officer who killed him and that was wrong.

After struggling to get through Altered Carbon, my coworker recommended that I check out Kindred by Octavia Butler. Time travel is always something that I go back and forth with in literature, so it will be interesting to see how this story uses forced time travel.

The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity. Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given…

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