April 2018, Week 1


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Wed, 4 Apr 2018 20:05:09 -0400
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 		 [The March 18 killing of 22-year old Stephon Clark by Sacramento
Police once again calls our attention to the racist aspect of the
problem of civilians murdered by law enforcement. Angie Thomass
award-winning Young Adult novel is among the most recent literary
responses to this crisis.] [https://portside.org/] 




 Jonathan Alexander 
 December 8, 2017
Los Angeles Review of Books

	* [https://portside.org/node/16915/printable/print]

 _ The March 18 killing of 22-year old Stephon Clark by Sacramento
Police once again calls our attention to the racist aspect of the
problem of civilians murdered by law enforcement. Angie Thomas's
award-winning Young Adult novel is among the most recent literary
responses to this crisis. _ 



The Hate U Give

Angie Thomas


ISBN: 9780062498533

_THE HATE U GIVE _takes place mostly in the aftermath of a violent
incident, told to us wrenchingly by Starr, a young African-American
woman who witnesses her childhood friend gunned down by a policeman
during a traffic stop. The murder — for murder it is, motivated by
fear of a young, unarmed black man — takes place early in the
novel’s chronology, and Starr spends the remainder of the book’s
400-plus pages turning over the incident in her mind, again and again,
as she tries not only to work through the psychological trauma but
also to figure out what an appropriate _political _response might be.

Young adult fiction has not shied away from difficult subject matter,
and one could not have hoped for a better book about police brutality
against young black folk. Angie Thomas, the book’s 30-year-old
author, has delivered a powerful novel that strikes to the heart of
contemporary race relations in the United States. Moreover, she pulls
no punches in educating her readers about the difficulties facing
young African Americans growing up in a culture that incarcerates and
murders them at alarming rates.

Part of what makes _The Hate U Give _so powerful is that Thomas
doesn’t pitch the novel as merely an exploration of the emotional
aftermath of trauma, but rather explores through Starr and her family
a longer history of traumatic relations between whites and blacks in
this country. The _personal_ trauma is certainly there: the pounding
baseline of a rap song heard on the radio all too easily recalls the
staccato gunshots that killed her friend. But Thomas interweaves the
specific trauma of this incident with the more general difficulty of
growing up black in the United States. Starr’s parents actively
educate her and her siblings about racism, giving advice about how to
handle themselves when interacting with white people and tutoring them
in the history of activism that has sought to raise awareness about
the consequences of racism for all Americans. Poignant moments focus
on how Starr, living in Garden Heights, a gang-ridden neighborhood in
a nameless city, repeats the mantra she learned from her family to
govern her behavior if she is ever stopped or questioned by cops:

_Keep you hands visible.
No sudden moves.
Only speak when spoken to._

Thomas also excels at rendering the experience of double
consciousness, the way African Americans, in the words of W. E. B. Du
Bois, are “always looking at one’s self through the eyes of
others.” Starr’s parents send her to a prep school in the suburbs,
hoping she’ll use her education to make a good life for herself.
While there, Starr meditates on the double life she lives, and her
need to monitor her behavior at school so other kids don’t think of
her as “ghetto.” More painfully, she can’t readily bring herself
to talk about her friend’s murder for fear that she’ll lose
control, which could lead her white friends to cast her in the
stereotypical role of the angry black girl. So she remains largely
silent; “I can’t stand myself for doing it, but I do it anyway,”
she says.

At the same time, Thomas includes numerous passages that link the
lives of her characters to historical figures, such as Tupac Shakur,
whose “thug life” stance serves as the core ethic of the book.
Tupac’s lyrics and philosophies permeate the story: several
conversations between Starr and others, particularly her father,
discuss Tupac’s activism and his use of his art to address racism.
The title of the book comes from Tupac’s acronym for “thug
life”: “The hate u give little infants fucks everyone.” Thomas
is well aware that Tupac was a controversial figure, but she makes no
apologies for her use of his work or for his parents’ connections to
the Black Panther party. In fact, Starr’s father has his kids recite
the Panther’s Ten Point Program every day as part of their
counter-education in American history, politics, and race relations.

As the foregoing might suggest, _The Hate U Give_ functions not only
as a timely, potent story but also as a deeply _pedagogical _novel,
reminding black kids in similar circumstances that they are not alone
while also educating naïve white readers about what it’s like to
grow up black. Thomas risks some stereotypes here: the young man
killed early in the book _had_ been involved in selling drugs (though
not at the time of his murder), and Starr’s father is an ex-con
himself. Much as in Walter Dean Myers’s extraordinary novel
_Monster_ (1999), which follows a young black kid on trial for murder,
_The Hate U Give_ doesn’t sugarcoat the experiences of some African
Americans. Its willingness to go to the hard places challenges readers
to consider, for instance, if a young black man deserves to die
regardless of his criminal history. As we learn more about Khalil, we
discover that his drug dealing was driven by hunger and poverty,
forcing readers to meditate on the limited choices facing many young
people across our country.

Once again, the inclusion — and strong positive valuation — of
Tupac’s work seems an attempt to rewrite how the dominant culture
understands controversial black celebrities and the difficulties
facing many inner-city black folk. In a recent talk at the University
of California, Irvine, Thomas described watching a video of Tupac
spitting on paparazzi and wondering how she could square that behavior
with his defense of black people and his attacks on racism. She
recounts being moved when hearing him sing to young black women, just
like her, growing up on welfare in the song “Keep Ya Head Up”:

Some say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice
I say the darker the flesh then the deeper the roots
I give a holla to my sisters on welfare
2Pac cares, if don’t nobody else care

Throughout his work and career, Tupac seemed to reach out
compassionately while still fiercely expressing his anger and
frustration. Anger and compassion, outrage and sensitivity, rage and
delight — these are not contradictory emotions but part of the
affective spectrum characterizing the experiences of many who grow up
in a culture that hates them. Recognizing this hate, while also
cultivating counter-narratives to survive and learn to love oneself
and others like oneself, comprises more than just the psychology of
double consciousness; it defines the basic politics of survival.

Sherman Alexie has said that the best children’s books are
“written in blood
by which I believe he means that we should be giving our young people
books that frankly and honestly address the insane contradictions and
glaring errors of how we live with one another. There’s plenty of
blood in _The Hate U Give_, but there’s also plenty of hope.
Following Tupac, Thomas understands her art as activism. It’s messy
and difficult, but it’s raising awareness nonetheless.

Thomas remains a realist, however. At one point near the end of the
novel, Starr meditates on how

the Ten-Point Program didn’t work for the Panthers. Huey Newton
died a crackhead, and the government crushed the Panthers one by
one. _By any means necessary _didn’t keep Brother Malcolm from
dying, possibly at the hands of his own people. Intentions always
look better on paper than in reality.

_The Hate U Give_ offers a set of powerful intentions, albeit on
paper. If the novel has a fault, it is perhaps that Starr is a
bit _too_ adaptable, a bit _too_ ready with an answer, quip, or
insight. She’s seen things that children shouldn’t have to see
and, as a result, should be perhaps a bit more traumatized than she

Thomas is clearly counting on the power of story to work as force in
the world, offering us a mirror for ourselves and a lamp to guide us
to a better place. That place must necessarily, at this point, be in
the aftermath of much trauma and difficulty. And an aftermath can be a
long and painful process. _The Hate U Give_ marks the time spent in
that aftermath and the damage done, but it also models artful and
essential responses.


_Part one of “Other People’s Children” can be found here


_Jonathan Alexander is Chancellor’s Professor of English at the
University of California, Irvine. His most recent book is _Writing
Youth: Young Adult Fiction as Literacy Sponsorship_ (Rowman and
Littlefield, 2017)._

	* [https://portside.org/node/16915/printable/print]







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