Time for Book Club! The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

Posted By Imaginary Book Club | 22 comments


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The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

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22 Comments

  1. Reading The Hate U Give can be a really challenging experience in a lot of ways. How do you feel Angie Thomas challenged your perceptions of race in the United States?

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  2. Were you surprised by the revelation regarding Starr’s boyfriend? Did it change your understanding of her situation?

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    • I was not surprised that Chris was white. Given that he was from her private school and that she was hiding him from her family, I kind of guessed.

      Thinking again about their relationship, how much she kept her role in Khalil’s trial from him, and Chris’s obsession with some hallmarks of black culture, I was a bit worried that revealing her role in the trial to Chris was going to be rough. Chris’s obsession with black culture felt a little icky to me at times. Was he going to turn out to be one of those white guys who feel persecuted because they like gangster rap? Who just want the “cool” or progressive perks of having a black girlfriend, but not the rough parts?

      In other words, until the end, I didn’t know if he would be up for sticking by her when her blackness had implications for his own privilege and power. I was proud of him for sticking by her and her friends during the riot/uprising. And, he asked a lot of the “dumb questions” that night that white readers might be thinking, so he was a good narrative vehicle to get those misconceptions out of the way!

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  3. Code-switching (the changes in behavior and language between Garden Heights and Williamson) is a huge issue discussed throughout the book. How do you think that switching affects Starr’s ability to feel “like herself” regardless of her location?

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    • I was listening to a podcast from Project Fandom about The Hate U Give, and the women who were discussing the book were really struck by how young Starr was to be code-switching. They said that their own experience had been that they didn’t really take on code-switching until they were in college or even starting their first professional jobs. It does seem like a crazy feeling to switch back and forth between worlds like that.

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      • To me, The Hate U Give did a great job of showing code-switching. I think the code-switching was portrayed beautifully, accurately, and just broke my heart. I think it was one reason why Starr and her friend, Maya, took so long to stand up to the racist “humor” of their mutual friend, Hailey. Both of them were hiding how offended they were at her offensive comments and jokes, terrified that they wouldn’t fit in. No wonder that Starr didn’t always feel like herself at the private school.

        FYI – Code-switching isn’t just about people of color. In my research on LGBTQ people in the workplace, many of them reported feeling “like themselves” because of the language games that they played to “calibrate” their gayness into a form that they thought their primarily straight communities found acceptable.

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    • I think most people code switch. I have my work persona, my mom persona, my hanging out with friends persona. They are all part of me but there are simply things I wouldn’t say at work that I might say at home and vice versa. I don’t think that it is that unusual that a young person would adapt to a school life persona and a home life persona. I can remember a time when I got in trouble with my dad because I accidentally didn’t make the switch from school to home, I was lucky I didn’t get my mouth washed out with soap.

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    • I thought Starr’s teenager emotions were spot on. It brought me right back to that feeling when I was a teenager and something bad would happen. I wanted everyone to protect me, but I hated when they acted like I needed protection.

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    • I lived in Baltimore city during the Freddie Gray protests, so this brought back quite a few memories. It was a different perspective for me, as I definitely wasn’t seeing things from Starr’s perspective then, but the feeling of the fight coming to Garden City felt a lot like the feeling that I remember within Baltimore.

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    • No, I’ve never lived there there were real racial issues. When I graduated from high school, we had one black boy and a few Hispanic kids. College in central Washington was pretty vanilla, too.

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    • As a white person growing up in the suburbs, my life experience was very far away from Starr, due to institutionalized racism in our society that influences where my family was able to work, live, and for me to go to public school.

      That said, I remember the year in high school that I decided that I wasn’t going to stay silent or laugh when my classmates made racist, offensive, and homophobic “jokes.” The first time I stood up and said that I didn’t think that someone’s clothes “gay” was funny or OK, I was terrified. But later, I found friends who also felt marginalized and felt quiet. And, I realized that as a white person, I had much less to lose and much more power in those situations than they did. Later, it became much easier because of all the practice countering (their reasons were never very good or creative) and knowing that my friends needed me to say something too, just like Maya and Starr realized.

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  4. The Hate U Give is billed as a young adult novel. Do you think this would be a good book to introduce teens to the complexity of race in the United States?

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    • YES! This book is wonderful, and feels so accessible.

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    • Yes, I feel like teens everywhere would relate to this book. However, I think young adult might be too limiting. I feel like everyone in the country should read this. This is one I’ll be recommending to everyone for a long time.

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      • TOTALLY VALID POINT. Perhaps required reading for everyone is a much more appropriate use…

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      • I agree – I think YA is much too limiting for this book too. I think everyone, particularly white people, should read this book.

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        • To my point about white people, reading this book also reminded me of some of the cringe-worthy stuff I thought about race when I was a teenager. I wasn’t like Hailey, but I really, really really hated having to contend with the racist legacy of my confederate ancestors and said (even wrote) stupid stuff about wishing I wasn’t white TO MY POC friends. I just wanted to not have an identity that was associated with oppression so badly and just erase my guilt, instead of realizing what I could do to help with that privilege. Melting in shame thinking about it. Luckily, I had great POC friends who answered all my dumb well-meaning, but so Chris-like questions. And, in undergrad, I was a member of ADVANCE, a student club that hosts a weekly discussion on a cultural, political, and racial justice related issues. I’m not done learning and growing yet, but I need to send them all a thank you note for putting up with my well-meaning ignorance and starting to wake me up to systemic and institutional racism.

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    • I agree with Jill, I think this book spans generations. It made me think about my own reactions to news reports and my own racial bias. It’s always a good thing to look at yourself and evaluate. I believe that, having read this book, the next racially charged incident that hits the news, and there will be one, my reaction to the news will be more sympathetic than it has been in the past.

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