The Hate U Give

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I knew when I first heard about this book that it was going to become one of my favorites of the decade. Angie Thomas, a debut novelist, has written an incredibly poignant tale about a sixteen year old, Starr Carter, as she balances living in a poor neighborhood and attending a suburban prep school. Everything hits a head when Starr witnesses the shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. The shooting becomes a national headline twisted with rumors that he was an alleged drug dealer and gangbanger. The story follows Starr as she navigates this emotional minefield and finds her voice to speak out.

Thomas takes a timely and heavy-handed topic but writes the story with caution, humor, and remarkable characters that you become deeply invested in from the very beginning. I found myself relating to Starr’s character far more than expected. They describe at length her unconscious habit of “code-switching” or behaving in a certain way in her neighborhood and another way while at her school. Having personally grown up in a suburban neighborhood, as one of the few black girls in the school, I understood her desire to avoid the “angry black girl” or “ghetto black girl” labels. It impacts your friendships, demeanor, and all interactions in that community.

One of the greatest strengths of THE HATE U GIVE, apart from the hysterical Harry Potter references, were the parallels.  The parallels are what made the entire piece realistic and dynamic. Chris and Hailey each represent the various reactions that the Caucasian community can have toward the issue of police brutality in the African American community. Each had significant connections to Starr, yet each handles the news of Khalil’s death differently. While one is able to set aside their privilege to earnestly gain insight into the feeling of outrage, the other merely behaves as if it is a minor inconvenience. Another parallel exists between the police officer responsible for shooting Khalil to Starr’s Uncle Carlos. Both have sworn the oath of a police officer/detective to protect and serve their communities, but approach that task in different ways. This parallel is also essential to removing any complete bias of “F*** the Police” because you cannot blame one community for the mistakes of the few. The last two parallels were between the prosecutors who question Starr and her attorney, Ms. Ofrah. Each has a duty to find the truth and seek out justice, but they both take different approaches to that as well based on their motivations. The last parallel is between the riots and peaceful protest. The riots are reminiscent to the Black Panther Organization and Malcolm X’s beliefs versus the peaceful protest which is reflective of Martin Luther King Jr’s belief. Each form of rebellion comes from deeply emotional places of hurt, but it’s important to acknowledge the consequences that riots can have.

There are so many valuable lessons that can be taken away from reading THE HATE U GIVE which is why it is now one of my favorite novels. An important lesson I needed to learn was the importance of not staying silent in situations where you should speak up. Personally, there have been times when a lump forms around my throat when it’s my responsibility to speak out as an African American/ Haitian American woman. For example, I’m surrounded by white people and a song that has the n-word comes on. It can be uncomfortable and awkward but at the end of the day — it’s my responsibility to stand up and tell those who are saying it that it’s wrong. By remaining silent, I am joining the side of the oppressor and allowing them to believe that this behavior is acceptable when it’s not. Bravery does not mean that you are never afraid, but that you do what should be done regardless of that fear.

Now that I’m so invested in this novel, my only fear now is for the film development. Thomas has repeatedly explained that she has had no involvement in the casting process, but part of me is concerned that the truth of the novel will not reflect as strongly. For example, I am a fan of the young African American actress, Amandla Stenberg, but she was not who I envisioned in the role of Starr. She has already played the role of Rue (“Hunger Games”), Maddy (“Everything, Everything”), and is even projected to portray Ruby in The Darkest Minds series. I worry that we won’t get the performance we deserve since this will be merely another role on a long list of films. I could be wrong, we will just have to wait and see when the film comes out.

 

What were your thoughts about THE HATE U GIVE? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you looking forward to June for her second novel, ON THE COME UP? I know I am.

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Truncated Reviews

Hey guys, I’m back again and I’ve been doing some reading! In the midst of my job search, I’ve been dedicating as much free time to reading as possible. I’m not sure if it’s true for others but the more I read, the better I write. Since, I’ve read about 5 books since I posted last,  I’m going to provide truncated reviews

 

#1) Nora Ephron’s Heartburn

Heartburn was my first book of 2018 and I loved absolutely everything about it. I mentioned before that I had never read any of Ephron’s works before and I can’t believe it took me this long. She is witty, engaging, and her writing captivates you from beginning to end. I never knew I could laugh so hard reading about a woman who is seven months pregnant finding out that her husband is having an affair, but somehow I did. It was a quick but insightful read that I enjoyed back and forth on my train rides to work. I can’t recommend it enough.

 

#2) Lisa See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Lisa See is an incredible writer and does such a great job of showing rather than telling the reader about the customs of Snow Flower and China in this time period. It is exceptionally literary and well-written, however, I was disappointed by the lack of action. The story is majorly reflective and I did not like Snow Flower’s resignation to her fate. It left me dissatisfied that her only means of rebellion was this recounting of events that she also seemed resigned to share. I would recommend it for those looking to examine Lisa See’s writing style, those interested in Asian culture especially the tradition of footbinding, and readers who enjoy the more factual recounting of events versus more emotional memoir-esque stories.

#3 & #4 Olivia Gatwood’s My New American Best FriendNeil Hilborn’s Our Numbered Days.
My secret santa bought me both of these books after noticing my love for spoken word and poetry. For those who are friends with me on Facebook, they know just how often I am posting a video from Button Poetry. These two books were high on my TBR list and they were incredible. Short, sweet, and to the point — each of these two books gave me chills. Stars now adorn the margins of the poems that left me pensive even hours after I’d closed the books. I recommend them both to those who are fans of Rupi Kaur’s, spoken word, or just exploring poetry as a whole.

#5) David Barclay Moore’s The Stars Beneath Our Feet

This book was a gift from one of my supervisors at Writers House. I had gone on and on about how I was dying to read this book and she gifted it to me. David Barclay Moore introduces you to the main character, Wallace a.k.a Lolly. A young boy growing up in Harlem, forced to cope in his own way with the loss of his older brother. Moore tells a story of both diversity and dealing with grief in an urban community. Through unlikely friendships, much-needed conversation, and the use of creativity as an outlet, Lolly finally finds the perfect outlet for his emotions. I absolutely adore this book. It’s not a PSA or after-school special, it’s a realistic portrayal of the decisions that are laid before young men and women in urban communities everyday along with the consequences of those choices.

It is long overdue but I am presently reading, Angie Thomas’ THE HATE U GIVE and I am in love with it. That book will surely warrant its own blog post so look out for that in the not too distant future.

Also, feel free to follow my Goodreads account

What are you guys reading? 🙂 

Coming soon..

When I say that my TBR is ridiculously long, I am not exaggerating. Sometimes, I genuinely look at the pile and wonder if I’ll ever read them all (don’t even get me started on my Amazon wishlist).

I’m currently reading Nora Ephron’s Heartburn and I’m obsessed with her narrative voice. It’s quick-witted and relatable and can’t believe I’ve never read her work before. Since it’s a pretty light read, I think I’m going to follow with Lisa See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, David Barclay Moore’s The Stars Beneath Our Feet (which was a gift from my supervisor), Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, a collection of personal essays called Freud’s Blind Spot, and Joan Silber’s Improvement.

These aren’t set in stone, order-wise, but I think it’s a good variety to start off my 2018 reading list.

So long, 2017…

Every year always turns out to be a rollercoaster, and to be completely honest I’ve never been a fan of rollercoasters. I prefer to have both feet on the ground. Though, if I’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that life will never pause to wait until you have both feet on the ground. You’ve just got to be ready to adapt. In the beginning of 2017, I thought things were going to be different because all of the obstacles I overcame in 2016, but it was just the beginning. Bear with me guys, this may be the longest blog post I’ve made.

This year, I was challenged in more ways than ever before. I was depressed, working in a job that I was desperately trying to get out of, unhappy in a myriad of ways and I was forced to rely heavily on God. Forced to accept that He has always had plans for me that are beyond what I can begin to envision for myself. There were days that I genuinely didn’t think I would make it to see the end of 2017, I had lost count of the number of panic attacks, tears and times that I thought I couldn’t possibly go on any further. If it wasn’t for God, my family, and closest friends who pushed me kicking and screaming through everything, I don’t think I would be here. In January, I was given a shimmer of hope as I was just starting to feel hopeless in my job at the time. I was given the opportunity to intern at Ayesha Pande Literary, a literary agency. It was the first taste of the publishing world that I had after completing the Columbia Publishing course. This was the time to gain hands-on experience. Serene, Ayesha, and Anjali were all incredibly kind and warm to me. I couldn’t have started my career with a better group of professionals. They were based out of NYC and it cost me $50/week give or take roundtrip for a 5-hour commute to go to their office and intern for free on my day off. I did it for four months because I was determined to pursue my dream, even if I had to sacrifice to do so. I don’t regret it for a moment. I learned so much valuable information, I read manuscripts, queries, drafted reader’s reports and got to ask questions whenever I had them. Despite my unhappiness at my full-time job, I was able to find joy in the fact that I was reading manuscripts in my free time, reading for leisure, writing more regularly. I was determined to stay sharp and focus on my goals. Once the internship concluded, I was back to where I was post-graduation: applying for jobs, interviewing, not hearing back — lather, rinse, repeat. After some silence, much prayer and support, August is when my life took a complete 180 degree turn. Ironically, I posted something about wanting the last few months of 2017 to be the plot twist I needed — and in a way, I got exactly what I asked for.

I was supposed to be taking a long weekend to visit my close friend, Nia, in Rhode Island. Out of the blue, I was contacted about an incredible opportunity to work as a counselor for a two-week sleepaway camp with a non-profit organization, Writopia. They contacted me on my last day of work to see if I was still interested in the position (which I had applied for months before), I responded immediately and we made plans for a Skype interview. I interviewed and was hired in the same day while I was in Providence, RI. I sent my letter of resignation to the job that I’d been working in for nearly a year that same day and never looked back. Everyone except my close family and friends thought I was CRAZY! I can’t blame them.  I quit a full-time job to work for two weeks at a summer camp. I couldn’t explain it but something about the easiness and sequence of events just felt right, like fate. I left for camp probably a week or less after I was hired. I packed my bags, went to New York City, and disappeared into the Pennsylvania mountains with no cell service for two weeks with complete strangers. I was anxious the entire time that I wouldn’t adjust, but every person that I crossed paths with in those weeks made a positive, lasting impression on my life. God knew that this was where I needed to be. I needed to disconnect from all my stress, breathe fresh air, write and interact with uninhibited creatives to remind me why I loved to write. Camp came and went faster than I realized, my family heard the change in my voice, and I knew I was coming back a stronger woman than when I left.

Once at home, my parents had questions: what’s next? Where are you going to work now? How are you going to take care of your bills? Etc. These were all valid questions but I didn’t have a single answer for them. I was still swimming in the serenity that camp gave me and I wasn’t anxious at all or worried about what was next.  I felt confident that things were going to come together for me, things wouldn’t go back to the way they had been. It was now September and I was casually applying for jobs, which was a polar opposite approach to the mass applying that I had been doing since I graduated college. Ideally, I wanted a full-time job but I decided to take a risk, apply for some jobs and a select few internship opportunities. In no time, I was contacted for a phone interview for a full-time job at a publishing company and also told that I was in the running for an internship opportunity at a renowned literary agency. I was between two incredible opportunities and the anxiety was purely due to the realization that my life was moving in the direction I had always wanted it to.

The application process for the internship seemed to be moving faster than for the job. I was submitting paperwork, had interviewed for the internship and was still waiting to hear back from the job. The recruiter from the full-time job contacted me telling me that I was one of three applicants considered for the position and would be invited for an interview that coming Monday. I was shocked! That same Thursday? I was told that I’d been accepted into the Writers House Internship program and if I accepted their offer. On the phone with Michael Mejias, I didn’t hesitate. It felt right and I said “OH MY GOD, YES!” without pause. It was once I hung up the phone, I really needed to think on whether or not I was making a foolish choice of choosing an internship with a stipend over taking a full-time job. I hadn’t interviewed so who is to say that I would even get the job? I let that question float in the air around me before I emailed the recruiter saying that I was no longer available to interview, apologized for the inconvenience but hoped to cross paths in the not too distant future. That’s when it really started to snowball. I became the Subsidiary Rights Intern for Writers House where I am still continuing to learn so much and gain some of the most invaluable skills. I’m surrounded by kind, intelligent, and ambitious fellow interns that have managed to take my honest, perpetually flustered,and hot-mess personality as endearing and continually show me such kindness. Despite never having two feet on the ground, sleeping on any-and-everyone who has been willing to offer’s couch, air mattress, or floor, staring at my bank account praying for imaginary funds to come through — after much prayer and supplication, I found a part time job.  A part time job that works perfectly around my internship schedule with two more kind and understanding supervisors to add to the list of the ones I will always be eternally grateful for.

It is December 31st, New Years Eve, my absolute favorite holiday for reasons I could elaborate on for far too long, enough to warrant a blog post of its own honestly. The prospect of 2018 is both terrifying and exhilarating to me. Terrifying because my dreams are within my grasps and the reality of failing is just as terrifying as the possibility for unbelievable success. I am exhilarated because I like to believe the life God has always planned for me is starting to take shape, one puzzle piece at a time. I can’t predict the future and I won’t pretend to have an inkling of what is even going to happen tomorrow. What I will say is that I am actively aware of the fact that I am entering into 2018 with a blindfold, prepared to free fall into the endless possibilities, because if 2017 has taught me anything it’s that I will by no means always get what I want (if ever), but I will always find myself with exactly what I need: from the people who said the words I needed to hear, the money that magically came to me in desperate times, the friends who made me laugh all the while, and the mentors who have supported me through everything. I don’t think any means of “thank you,” will ever be enough but I promise to prove myself to be everything you have believed me to be capable of.

I’m sorry for the exceptionally long-winded post but I just want to say Happy New Years!! I hope 2018 proves to be everything you need it to be and more.

Six of Crows: A Review

For those of you who have kept up with my blog, you know that I cannot resist a good young adult fantasy novel. Yes, I read other genres but the books I remember loving the most were young adult fantasy novels. After hearing all of the hype, I decided to purchase the duology of Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. Leigh Bardugo does an unbelievable job of creating a dynamic universe that is overflowing with colorfully unforgettable characters.

The minute we are introduced to Kaz Brekker, I already know he will quickly become the bad-ass character that you can’t help but love. He is the Danny Ocean to a similarly assembled band of thieves. Each of the six members of the team have a particular skill set, along with a complicated background story to explain how they found themselves here. Despite different back stories, they all found themselves agreeing to embark on an impossible heist with the highest stakes and potential for highest reward. Bardugo separates chapters by each character’s perspectives. These chapters help you gain a deeper understanding of each person’s past but also provides insight into what their motivations are during this journey. Apart from the story itself, which captivates the reader from the first page to the last, Bardugo supplies fluid prose without stutter. Her strong writing, in combination with the incredible plot, are what make Six of Crows a five-star must-read. 

I’m unsure if I want to jump directly into Crooked Kingdom (the second novel in the series) or take a break to read some other titles on my TBR. I’ll keep you guys posted.

XO

Currently reading…

I am so excited to announce that I have just started reading the famous Leigh Bardugo duology, Six of Crows! I know I’m super late on the whole bandwagon thing but — a good book is a good book whenever you choose to read it, at least in my opinion.

Life has been hectic so I haven’t been reading or writing as much as I used to. I want to change that and make an active effort to read and write more regularly. They always go hand in hand for me, if I’m not writing often it’s usually because I’m not reading as much as I should. I don’t want to make excuses but instead, challenge myself to take free moments to read. Y’all know how much I love a good YA fantasy so no better way to dive back in than with the famed Six of Crows duology. I’ve only heard good things and I’m excited to read it for myself.

My TBR is overflowing but if you have any suggestions for books to read. Comment below! I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading and why you liked it.