Here's what you need to know about this post. It MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS. It WILL cover some delicate subjects. You may feel offended, but I can promise that I in no way, meant to offend anyone. Lastly, this book is so important and I loved it so much.
I want to start by saying that I listened to the audio version of this book through Libro.fm. I had to take multiple breaks (around 5), and it took over a month to finish. This was NOT because it was bad. It was in fact, incredibly written with so much grace. However, because of the themes it became necessary to take emotional breaks from it. I spent those breaks listening to many Harry Potter books, which I think in all honesty, the main character, Starr would have understood (she LOVES Harry Potter). Lastly, if you weren't already aware, this book discusses why the #BlackLivesMatter movement is so important.
This is a hard post to write. I can feel with each letter I type, that there will be some fallout once it is posted. Someone will say something negative. Someone may un-friend me. However, If I don't write how I feel about this novel, I think I would be providing a dis-service. I need to be brave like Starr and find my voice to speak for those who struggle to be heard. AND YES, people of color still struggle to be heard.
The first thing that you need to know about, The Hate U Give, is that in the first 25 pages, Starr sees her childhood best friend get shot three times by a police officer. Now, to be clear, this is not a post against the police. I myself have family and friends in law enforcement. Starr has an uncle, a fantastic, father-like, uncle, who is a police officer. However, in these first 25 pages, you witness a police officer pull two teens over for a broken taillight. Before you ask, there was some attitude. There were no drugs or other paraphernalia. Just two teens going home from a party with a broken taillight. One (Khalil), turned away from the officer, and in turn got three bullets in his back. Khalil, the main focus of this book, was just going to see if Starr was alright. These are the facts. This is what happened. Does attitude and a turn-away give an excuse for murder? These are the questions that this book poses, as well as many others of equal importance.
Now, because this blog is titled, Confessions of a Starstruck Bookseller, I think it is time for some confessions on my part. I can be very ignorant when it comes to world news. That is a fact. Cases involving Treyvon Martin, Oscar Grant, and Eric Garner were all on my radar, but I thought that they were depressing, and didn't really investigate into them. I was also aware of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, but didn't participate. In fact, until I finished this book, I didn't realize that they had just won the 2017 Sydney Peace Award.
In the book, there is a character named, Hailey. Hailey is not a horrible person. However, she does say some racist, and potentially racist things. She does NOT want to be considered a racist. In fact, I think that that is her worst fear. Yet, when she gets called out, she does not respond well. She gets defensive and I think that that is how a lot of people react. I think that a lot of people, white people specifically, would love to ignore racism all together. "If we don't talk about it, it doesn't exist" right? We become so careful with what we say, that we don't say anything out of fear. This can also mean not speaking up for people of color, when we really should. We would rather stay out of it or pretend that nothing happened. While listening to Option B, by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant, they mention a term called the "mum effect" which I think explains what I am trying to say, in better words:
"Even after an unarmed black person is killed for reaching over to show a cop his license, white people who have seen the news, who live in these communities, and who sit at the desk next to us at work will often say nothing," Maxine said. "For the victim of racism, like the victim of loss, the silence is crippling. the two things we want to know when we're in pain are that we're not crazy to feel the way we do and that we have support. Acting like nothing significant is happening to people who look like us denies us all of that." (pg. 34)
It is revealed on page 250 of The Hate U Give, that Hailey, one of Starr's best friend's, unfollowed Starr's Tumblr account, because she didn't want to "see that shit" anymore. "That shit" refers to pictures of protests, pictures of support, and pictures of awareness. As I mentioned in an earlier paragraph, I also thought that these kinds of posts were "depressing" and thus did not educate myself (hence the ignorance). I think the scariest part of this book, was realizing how similar I was so Hailey, something and someone I will strive not to be in the future. Like Hailey, it is also a fear of mine, to be called racist, or to be called out for saying something racist. I would hope I would never say anything like that, but I probably have in the past and (the sad part is) not even realized it. I related to Hailey, more than I wanted to admit while reading. After reading, I had to come clean with myself. There is a passage that really spoke to me, that I am going to include here:
It's like somebody hit a pause button on my heart. "They're protesting for Khalil?'
"Yeah," Hailey says, all giddy and shit. "Perfect timing too. I so did not study for that English exam. This is, like, the first time Remy actually came up with a good idea to get out of class. I mean, it's kinda messed up that we're protesting a drug dealer's death, but-" (p.183)
Now, at first glance, this could seem like a regular teen phrase. A teen is excited to get out of an exam. However, Starr's narration goes on to point out the (what should be obvious) racist implications of what Hailey has just said. She want's to protest a dead teens death because it gets her out of an exam, NOT because she feels what happened is wrong. She in fact, thinks the exact opposite. By stating that he was a drug dealer, she is giving an excuse to the officer who shot and killed Khalil. It in turn becomes okay in her mind, because of that.
I think this brings up another important topic. How are we getting the news of these deaths? How does the media play into our emotions and how we feel about them? Obviously, for Hailey, she had already dismissed Khalil's death because the media had painted him as a negative character. I believe that this happens a lot. I think people see enough headlines reading, "drug dealer" or "theif" and those are the words that determine these teens and young adult's fates. One news source that I feel is doing a great job of battling this (and not just because a former Vroman's Bookseller and friend writes for them) is Mic. I would highly recommend checking out their "About" section, as it says everything I would want to say about them and more. Right before I wrote this paragraph, I subscribed to their email list and was super excited that I would be getting their top 5 news posts to my inbox the next day. They are informative and really get to the heart of whats going on in our world.
To wrap this post up, I want to again state how much Angie Thomas affected my worldview with this book. Since reading, I have looked up many different news articles relating to police brutality and will strive to be continually informed. I have faced some potentially racist moments in my past & discussed them with friends. I've talked about the book & it's impact with my co-workers, and got everyone hyped for this post, that might actually be horribly written. However, here's hoping it hits someone the right way! It seems funny that a book would do all that, but then again, it doesn't. If I hadn't spent the last 6 1/2 years of my life in a bookstore, I would be a completely different person, just beacause of the way I grew up. I wouldn't know about the lack of diversity in books, that has only JUST started to change. I wouldn't know that there were campaigns to support diverse books. I wouldn't know that there was a world of books that could change lives, just by showing a child someone similar to themselves. This book bought a very sentitive subject to the masses in a really loving and eye-opening way. Even though it is called, The Hate U Give, I didn't feel any hate while reading it. Instead I felt sadness, fear, anxiety, love, compassion and what needs to happen to continue to move the world forward.
The world is changing and we need to change with it.
<3 Jen in the Bookstore
Additionally, here are some things to look out for if you love, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas:
Dear White People (Netflix)
I will be taking Dear Martin, on a trip with me this weekend. I cant wait to compare and contrast the two books. I also already watched, Dear White People and loved every second.
*I also want to give a quick shout out to Susan, for being my never-complaining hand-model, and Tiffany for being my superhero sensitivity reader. Love you both!