The Hate U Give is a book that revolves around the protagonist’s struggle to answer a simple question, “You okay, Starr-“
First a Huge shout out to Tupac’s THUG LIFE (The Hate U Give Little Infants F**s Everyone). Tupac used his words to inspire youth, celebrate life, tell it how it is; his words were so powerful, that they continue to remain relevant. Young black children grow up in communities where they lose trust in authorities, learn to live in fear for their lives, and where they learn to have a different dialect when speaking to outsiders.
Angie Thomas may have received inspiration for the book through the Black Lives Matter Movement- however, I think she received most of her inspiration through Black Lives. PERIOD.
This book is about Starr- and her life- her Black Life. Every word written by Thomas is relevant to Starr’s life, whether it be in relation to the pictures of Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, Emmett Till, drugs or gang rivalry- it is all part of Starr’s life.
Starr, like most other minority children, is taught at an early age what to do if ever stopped by the authorities- keep your hands visible. No sudden moves. Only speak when spoken to- and memorize the badge number.
Her close friend, Natasha, is killed when she is too young to comprehend life and death. Starr’s parents send her to school outside of her neighbourhood, in hopes she will have a “chance” at a “normal” life. They put her in a white dominant school so she can have a normal childhood- something they never had. No matter how hard her parents try to shield her from the realities of the world- she cannot run away from her life.
While attending a house party, shots are fired- her best friend, Khalil, and her dodge the bullet- leave the “trouble”- only to be gunned down in the streets by those who keep society safe- aka cops. Her friend’s last words to her “You okay, Starr-“ leave an imprint on her life. She sees his eyes glaze over, she is left in terror and loses her ability to express herself. Angie Thomas, then, successfully gives her character the ability to tell the story through her own eyes. She gives Starr the freedom to use whatever dialect or language she wishes to use- she empowers her character. Starr uses this freedom to bring us to tears in one chapter and make us burst out laughing in the next as she tells her story.
Starr witnesses murderers get away with their crimes; she witnesses discrimination but most of all she witnesses her outlook on life change. She sees how gangs unite for the sake of the community. She sees her friendship with her white friends change as they can’t understand the realities of her world. While they are complain about how boring their family vacations were, Starr can’t voice the horrors of her life- She begins to understand why her friends in her black community distrust outsiders- but most of all she learns how to be “okay” aka functional within this messed up world.
Thomas lets this character take us on this journey- where we too are given a taste of what we can do to impact the world. You might be able to move away from the harsh realities of black life- but you will never be able to escape your black life- no- you can’t escape Your Life. Period. So, use your microphone, use your pen, use your voice, use your words- use the tools you have available to you and let your message be so powerful that the world can’t ignore it. With your message, force the world to give your infants a chance at love- let that Love grow and Blossom-Give back the Life that has been Taken.
(P.S. Read the Book before you watch the movie!!!)