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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*Hiatus*

HI GUYS!

I’m terribly sorry for that extended hiatus. Life was getting a bit hectic so my reading temporarily hit the back-burner. Hopefully, things are officially slowed down to a manageable pace so I can get back to doing what I love: reading, writing and reviewing!

While my posts may have stopped temporarily, the growth of my TBR pile never wavered. I still have a bunch of books that I can’t wait to review for you guys and pick up right where we left off.

So, keep an eye out for my next post which is going to be a book review on Tayari Jones’  Silver Sparrow.

Caraval

OH MY GOODNESS! I am at a loss for words. If you knew me personally – you would know that basically never happens but let me try my best to explain my speechlessness. I have just finished reading Stephanie Garber’s Caraval and it was absolutely unforgettable! In all honesty, before we proceed, stop now and please add it to your TBR… it’s okay…I’ll wait.

You added it? Put it on your Amazon wish list? Made it to the local bookstore?

Good. Let’s proceed.

Caraval is the story of two sisters, Donatella (Tella) and Scarlett born, raised and restricted to their home island of Trisda. Living under the strict and abusive supervision of their father, Governor Dragna forces the two sisters to yearn for lives far away from their reality especially for the mysterious and magical tournament, Caraval. Scarlett eventually grows out of her fascination but hopes that her impending marriage to an unknown suitor will be the salvation that her and her sister have been waiting for while Tella yearns to attempt bolder methods.

Stephanie Garber is incredible in this novel and does a remarkable demonstration of skill in this fantasy novel. The themes are sisterhood, self-discovery and love in a multitude of forms. Despite the romance that builds in the story, it’s purely and innocently done and refreshingly not the primary focus of the story. No better story of sisters has been done this well apart from the film, Frozen with Elsa and Anna (at least that comes to mind). Caraval was the fantasy novel that I desperately needed to read and I will probably re-read again, each time finding something new to love about it. This has definitely earned and carved a place for itself in my favorites.

I also tweeted at Stephanie Garber today and she responded to me. I fangirl-ed soooo hard.

You Can’t Touch My Hair

Phoebe Robinson is an African-American comedienne, half of the collaborative duo in the podcast, 2 Dope Queens and creator of the blog, Blaria (Black Daria). The author bio given here, which is also expanded on in the book, was as much as I knew about Phoebe Robinson before reading this book. I had zero expectations apart from an implied chuckle or two given the shock value of the title. Robinson did a stellar job in her debut novel and reading her book these past couple days was something I was constantly looking forward to. Any free moment, on breaks at work, you could find me completely lost in this paperback.

Robinson does something that requires quite a bit of finesse. She discusses heavy handed topics such as “the angry black woman myth” which is a name of one of her chapters. She also touches on the political climate of 2016 (spoiler: Trump becomes president, ugh.) and the overall daily struggle that it is to not only be an African American but an African American women. Each topic is discussed with an unbelievable amount poignancy and just a touch of humor. She shares her own personal accounts of learning to accept herself through her hair, through her comedy and through media as it has been evolving. Despite being merely 30-something years old, Robinson speaks with a knowledge far beyond her years, bestowing her knowledge and acute observations with the reader but especially with her baby niece, Olivia, with individual letters.

I think that You Can’t Touch My Hair should be required reading. It’s comedic, refreshing and incredibly insightful about the world that we are living in. This is something that I can see myself sharing with others when asked to recommend a great read. It’s mentioned briefly that Robinson may pursue writing future novels and if so, I look forward to adding her works to my growing library.