129: Re-release of Angie Thomas's THE HATE U GIVE Book Club Discussion
In light of the unjust loss of Black lives in America and of the Black Lives Matter movement, we wanted to share an episode from 2018 where, for our book club, we discussed one of our favorite YA literature books for the classroom, Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give. In the episode, we discuss the novel and share pairings including Gabrielle Union's We're Going to Need More Wine, Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil's The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After, and Nic Stone's Dear Martin.
Note: We read a few passages from the text of the novel that include strong language.
Spoilers are inevitable throughout our discussion, so consider whether or not to listen if you haven't yet read the book!
Jen - Gabrielle Union's We're Going to Need More Wine
Sara - Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil's The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After
Ashley - Nic Stone's Dear Martin
Books Mentioned in Classroom Connections
Jason Reynolds's Long Way Down
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird
Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely's All American Boys
Other Works Mentioned
Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele's When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir
Book Riot's "Is it Time to Retire To Kill a Mockingbird?" by Jennifer Marer
(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)
Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.
Loving what you see here? Please comment below (scroll ALL the way down to comment), share this post using the social media buttons below (scroll down for those as well!), and find us on social media to share your thoughts!
Want to support Unabridged?
Subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Introduction for the Re-Release
Today we are releasing our episode of The Hate U Give which we originally released on October 3, 2018. We think Angie Thomas's book is a great place to start thinking and learning for adults and young readers alike. In this book, Thomas covers topics such as police brutality, code, switching race relations, gangs and protests and writing. She confronts a number of issues in a nuanced way with no easy answers.
We wanted to call attention to this episode specifically because we believe that teachers play a vital role in helping students learn to understand the world around them with all of its complexities. We believe that open, inviting conversations are essential and helping kids learn to think with empathy and compassion and to see how they can play a part in making our society better.
As three white women we have moments in this episode where we said things that may not be right. We worried then and worry now about saying the wrong thing. And these moments make us uncomfortable. But because of what's happening in this country. We know that it is important to confront our own discomfort to move forward. And we think it's essential that teachers be prepared to talk with students about this important movement. We're working to be allies and we know we are imperfect, but we are working hard to continue learning and growing.
On our social media platforms, we will be celebrating Black authors and highlighting books that we love. We're also sharing resources in our newsletter, so be sure to sign up if you haven't yet at unabridgedpod.com. We also have a list of resources on Teachers Pay Teachers that support discussions about these topics. We are happy to provide any of those resources to listeners for free during this time, just email us at email@example.com to make a request.
Original Episode - Main Discussion
Hey, it's Ashley. Today we're discussing Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give. This is one of our book club books. This is our October pick, and we are so excited to be doing an Unabridged Book Club. We'll be discussing this book all month on Instagram and Facebook @unabridgedpod. And we also are going to see the film and look forward to releasing an episode about that after we see it. And we'd love to hear your comments about the book or the film anywhere on social media. So check us out on there. I also want to mention before we get started because race is very relevant in this book and because this is a podcast and you cannot in fact see us. I wanted to say up front that all three of us are white women. We are all living in a rural area of Virginia, like I live in the city, but it is still a very small city with a small population. And I think that's relevant to this discussion. So we just wanted to say that up front, we all loved Angie Thomas's book so much, and we look forward to discussing it. And we all believe that the issues that she is addressing in the book are so important in our society today. We believe that black lives matter. We believe that a lot of the things that she is addressing as far as police brutality, and the role of race within some of the decisions that are made in the courtroom--that all of that is an important discussion for us to have in our society. And so we look forward to talking about her amazing book today. And so with that, let's get started. Ladies--what did you all think? Just general impressions first of The Hate U Give?
This is Sara. So, I love this. I read this actually for several book clubs who have picked it. I read it for one that I do outside of the Unabridged Book Club. I did it with The Diverse Books Club and now we're doing it with Unabridged Book Club, but I think it's so important and such a relevant important book that I think that all book clubs should read it. I love the book. I loved the characters. I love the family dynamics. I love the moments of levity that Thomas sprinkles throughout so that it's just, I mean, it's a hard book but she is really good at crafting these moments of levity where you actually can have a laugh in the midst of this these really hard topics that she's tackling, but I loved Starr. I loved Big Mav. I loved Lisa and Sekani and Seven. I love the family and I just loved it. I cannot say enough about it. And in each reread, I love it even more. I'm so excited to see the film but, also apprehensive that I mean like, because often when I love a book, the film doesn't measure up, but I hope this one does. I really have high hopes for it, but I am going in with a little trepidation.
Yeah, this is Jen. I'm in the same boat. I just, every time I've read it, I found something new to love. I think that Angie Thomas's writing and her message are both so nuanced. I think she tackles a lot of issues with a lot of grace. I think she is amazing at creating real characters. I think Starr just feels so real and she's not perfect. She's a kid who makes mistakes and who is struggling to understand a world that is very complicated. And so, I just appreciate so many things about it. Like you said, Sara, I think the secondary characters are also excellent. And I think even though there are characters who I do not care for at all, I think she does a great job of making us see different perspectives without making people villains. I think most of the characters, even if I come out on the side of not liking them or thinking that they make the wrong choices consistently, she makes you understand why they're making these choices. So yeah, I just think Angie Thomas is brilliant. I think her writing is brilliant. I imagine we'll spend a lot of time talking about issues and plot, but I do just want to say I think her writing is so, so strong. And she just has a beautiful way of articulating a lot of ideas that I think are out there, but maybe aren't always expressed quite so clearly.
I appreciate hearing your thoughts about that. But I think somebody posted when I posted on Instagram, somebody had said, I think that every student should read this book, and I just felt like, I could echo that that I really think part of what I appreciate it so much is that Thomas covers so many different issues. But like you said, Sara, she doesn't it in a way that's relatable to people regardless of their life experience. And I think that is what's hard to do well, and it's also hard to not make it feel like the author is kind of preaching to you. And I think she doesn't do that at all. I mean, she just lays it out there and lets you draw your own conclusions. But she shows why things are the way they are. Right. And she shows it, she does not tell us she shows it over and over again, throughout the novel. And like you all said, I mean, I have reread this as well and found so many new things in the additional reading, and I just, I think her storytelling alone is so phenomenal.
I think looking at the characters as they struggle to figure out the right thing to do in a world that does not fall into one side or the other clearly, and that there is no one right answer, but when you see her and her family working through the implications of, you know, stepping forward or not stepping forward telling your story letting her face be seen or not, you understand. You know, as a mom, I think I understand her parents desire to protect her, and yet also to make her feel that she can stand up for what is right. Yeah, I just think Angie Thomas does such a great job of showing how difficult it is to make a decision. That is right. And that even when you think you've landed on it, there still might be drawbacks to those decisions.
I wanted to comment on what you said, Jen, I think that those little nuances that Angie Thomas brings with not everything being black and white, and nobody is all good or all bad. Everybody is somewhere in between. I think that is an important thing where some of the characters that we saw that we don't like during the course of the story, you still see that they are nuanced and there is something behind what is happening. I think for Angie Thomas to be able to do that and to step back and be able to provide all of these particular instances where people are neither good nor bad. They are, you know, walking somewhere in the middle. I just loved it.
Yeah, I feel that way by Iesha, Seven's mom. I think Angie Thomas is such a nice job with her of showing how, like you said, we don't like her. And there are a million reasons not to like her and the reader is not intended to like her. But, what she does in the end to look out for him and his sisters, and just the way that we can see her role and all of it. And Khalil's mom and seeing how, again, I mean, she had made some choices that very negatively affected Khalil's life. And yet I think she just does such a nice job of showing why those choices might have happened, but also how they don't always have to happen. That it is not, you know, inevitable that there are ways. I think about Big Mav, I think about with DeVante, all the issues There are ways to get out and there are ways to get help and to make different choices. But she shows how hard it is to make that choice or to bring about those changes. And so, I think that's really masterful.
When I think too about the gangs. I mean the way gangs are portrayed, is that there are clearly bad things about the gangs, but it also offers an opportunity to have a family if you don't have a family. Look at Khalil even though he didn't join the gang, he was still trying to take care of his own family by selling drugs and stuff to take care of its family. It shows you why, or how gangs come about and why people choose to join because of the protection and places where people don't feel protected.
Right. That's right.
When you see at the end, that Big Mav is able to call on the gang for protection. And yeah, to take care of his family when they've made the decision to go to court. I don't think Thomas is oversimplifying it, but I think she does a great job of showing why there is an appeal and of the fact that they're not all the same.
I think it's the back to the nuance. Yeah, that, that within the gang, there are different ways that different gangs, you know, operate. It's just not all one thing, and I think that is an important distinction to make.
I feel like she does a lot to to trace power and agency and like who has the power and who has the agency and what gives it to them. So, I feel like she does a really nice job of showing. That's the thing about gangs--you know, I was looking back at what DeVante says. This is the part where he is explaining to star why Khalil was selling the drugs and that Khalil was not a King Lord. And then she is so relieved. She's relieved to find out. And so she says, "I hate how he's being called a thug and shit. When people don't know the whole story. You said it, he wasn't a gangbanger. And if everybody knew why he sold drugs...". And then DeVante says, "Then, they wouldn't think he was a thug like me." And she's like, "Oh, I didn't mean..." And you know, he goes on. And he just says, "'I get it. I guess I am a thug. I don't know. I did what I had to do. King Lords was the closest thing me and Dalvin had to a family.' 'But your mama,' I say and your sisters,' 'They can look out for us like the king Lords do,' he says. 'Me and Dalvin looked out for them. With King Lords, we had a whole bunch of folks who had our backs no matter what. They bought us clothes and shit our mama couldn't afford and always made sure we ate.' He looks at the counter. 'It was just cool to have somebody take care of us for a change instead of the other way around.'"
I mean, they're kids.
Yeah, absolutely. I think that that entire storyline with DeVante is just phenomenal. I just feel like when people are not from a place where gangs are part of their world, there is a lot of judgment. I've seen that with my students who, you know who when I moved here, I was really shocked to find, not that not that I thought that people would be like, like you said before, Jen, it's not like people are like, yay, gangs, but where I was from, and where I had taught before, people had a much stronger understanding of why they happen, how they happen, and that lots of different types of people were involved in them. Whereas here, you know, it felt like there were some profound stereotypes about what that means and who those people are and how bad they are. And I just think that part of what she's addressing is that all of these power structures in place in our society are what lead people to having to make those hard choices so that they can survive and protect their families and take care of themselves. And I think, you know, , later on he says, nobody wants to sell drugs. You know, he's like, nobody wants that life. But people do what they have to do to protect themselves and to take care of their family. And I think a lot of that is just really clearly articulated in the book.
I think the fact that Big Mav is such a great character, and I think he's so likable, and the fact that she makes him a former gang member and someone who has been to prison and you know, she sets all these foils for Big Mav, but I think that goes a long way, again, to just being a subtle way of saying, everything is not as simple as it seems on the surface. She uses her characters in such a smart way to kind of make these statements that the audience can figure out, but I don't know that she ever explicitly says it, but it is a very clear message from the book.
Yeah, and I think just thinking about King and his role and all of it. I feel like even his character is so interesting, because in a lot of ways, I mean, he is awful, and he's awful to all the people in his life. And he clearly has gotten accustomed to entitlement. And he feels that he is entitled to whatever he wants whenever he wants it. And at the same time, even--I think the end is just so powerful, where he's arrested and people are standing up and speaking out because it shows how even his structure is such a house of cards. And that so much of it is he's powerful because he shows power. And then when the community around him no longer bows down to him. He's not so powerful anymore, and he seems kind of pathetic. And I think you know, that is really amazing too. And I think there are lots of times where Big Mav makes King seem pathetic. And I think that's amazing. Just to see him in this light that shows that he is both powerful, and weak and awful, is really interesting.
Well, and that, even though they sort of take him down, that structure is still in place. Someone else is going to rise up to take his place, and maybe they'll be nicer. Maybe they'll be better, maybe they'll treat people better and not be so entitled. But that structure is still in place. I mean, and I think that's, like, Ashley, when you said about power and agency, I think that's one of the interesting things is that you really see the structures at work, where Starr lives and that's both where she lives and where she goes to school. And when they move to the suburbs. And all of these places, there's a structure behind it, and people are just trying to make a small difference. But taking on the structure is a whole different thing than making a good positive decision for yourself in one moment. Yeah, that's why I think that the final decision in the court case, is so powerful. I'm so glad Thomas didn't have the officer convicted, because I think the structure is still in place that is giving that, not even that person, but that role, its power. And I think that's a really powerful message in the book as well.
Yeah. I was rereading about some of the killings that have happened more recently since The Hate U Give in the last couple of days. And I just think every time I mean, you read the exact account of what happened and then think, how on earth was this tolerated? How is it permissible? But it is. And so because it's happening over and over again, I think she really spoke to the truth of what is happening in American society, but it is ugly and it is painful. And I feel like she did that but still managed to have like you said--in the beginning Sara about the levity--I think she still managed to have a lot of hope in the story, and there's a lot of levity, and I think that's part of what I loved about it is that I think it speaks true to me in the decision that was made and what happened but it's also hopeful in the sense that there are things that can change and there there is something to be done and one person's voice does matter. I think that is a hard line to walk, and I just think she does a good job of navigating that pathway.
I am saw Angie Thomas last year at the National Book Festival. And I think that her appearance there really reflected a lot of this--that she has a very serious message., and she is very earnest in telling it and in wanting to have reality in her book and in what she was saying. She has a clear agenda in writing the book. And yet as a speaker, she was great at engaging the audience. And she was really funny at times, and she could code switch like you see Starr do and she would she did it out there. She basically said, I'm going to code switch now and then she did it. So I just think seeing her you understand how she was able to walk this balance beam in the book. There is serious, serious content in the book, and yet it does have those funny moments. And you do love these people. And you know, when you see the siblings interacting, they act just like siblings act all the time. And they fight and they get on each other's nerves and press each other's buttons. And there's a reality there that just makes the serious moments easier to take and easier to understand, I think. And we can link to the videos of her appearance at the National Book Festival. So we can link that in the show notes. And I would recommend it. My husband had not at the time, read The Hate U Give, but he is happy to go along and see whoever I really want to see. And he came away from that saying, I really want to read that book. It sounds so good. And he really enjoyed seeing her speak too. And I think when you see someone who can set out their purpose, so clearly, it just makes the book sound like something you want to read.
That's cool. The code switching makes me think about Starr so I would like to talk a bit more about her. I mean, what did y'all think about Williamson and her life there? Her friends? And her attempts to navigate that, especially after what happens with Khalil?
I mean, I really felt for her during that whole thing. I've never had something like that happen to me. But I've had that feeling where you just don't fit anywhere. And I mean, I felt like I could empathize with her and that she didn't truly fit. She didn't feel she fit at Williamson and her friends didn't really understand her. But then she also didn't fit in Garden Heights like at the party when she walked in, she didn't feel like she belonged there. And so she was kind of out in this weird space where she didn't really fit truly anywhere and that she had to have a persona at Williamson, but also a persona in Garden Heights. I just really, everything else aside, even if you're not even thinking about Khalil, I just really felt for Starr in this life she was trying to live and I understood why her parents had her in a private school. But I also just felt for her and her inability to make strong connections with anyone really. And I don't know, I just I really felt for her in that situation.
And I think when you see her friendship with Haley kind of falling apart, for good reason. You just see it's like one of her anchors has come loose. And you know, that's another thing she's trying to work through. Haley makes the offhand comment about fried chicken to Starr, and Starr calls her out on it. And I think that's another one where just the nuance, and that whole interplay is great because you can see Haley not understanding why it's a big deal because they just had fried chicken. But you can also see Starr and know of course it's problematic. And how Haley just will not back down. She just insists that it's not racist. That she didn't mean it that way, and she won't admit that even if she didn't mean it that way, it can still be a problem.
What I love about that is I feel like we all know those people like Haley. That is a clear I mean, it's not a stereotype, it is a person that we probably all know in our life that has those same types of thoughts and so I just thought that this is another thing that made this so relatable. You have those type of people around and I thought Starr really went above and beyond trying to make it work with her.
I did too. Yeah, really gracious.
Yeah, after the whole unfollowing after the Emmett Till photo on Tumblr and all that, I think, I don't know, I just thought that she gave a Haley more than a chance. Haley really just did not want to own up to any of--
Well, she just couldn't reflect upon herself and be honest enough with herself to admit that it could be rooted in anything.
Well, and then when Maya says the whole thing about the cat at Thanksgiving--
I think when when Maya told her that and said that it had been hurtful to her all that time before, and that that stayed with Maya all that time, then how do you not as a friend, realize that you have made a mistake, and maybe it was an ignorant mistake, but that's no excuse for the fact that it's a mistake. And so if you have made it, you need to question why.
I agree that she just was really gracious about it, because, like you said, Jen, I mean, the fried chicken thing in isolation, you know, just precipitated . . . I mean, of course, it was Starr coming to see things differently that made that moment so illuminating, but then the things that happened after . . . And I mean, her running her mouth about what happened to Khalil. I think that where things finally escalate is inevitable because of her unwillingness to see the world in any way other than her extremely privileged, extremely bigoted way. And her just inability to do that. But I think what you said, Jen, is a good point about that, that she was an anchor for Starr, and so Starr is losing something, and she's mourning the loss of it, and it's hard for her to lose. . . I mean, she's already lost Natasha and Khalil through death. So then to lose another person who's been in her life a long time, who has known her since the incident with Natasha . . . I loved what she said about, about how they both bonded in grief because she had lost Natasha and Haley had lost her mom. Right? It was her mom. And So, you know, I feel like that made a lot of sense, and I think it gives common ground to people who might otherwise not have common ground. And I think that's a beautiful thing about people--that we can find these spaces of common ground and can build a relationship. But then sometimes that doesn't work out because that ground isn't strong enough to support you know . . .
Well, she has to compromise to get there.
That's right, that's right. Why should Starr have to put up with her continual attitude?
Well, and I love the way Starr's mom advises her on that whole situation. I just think she is so wise in letting Starr find her own solution and get to her own place. But she's also pretty clear in drawing a line there. And I think it's one of those once you start, once you let in that revelation about another person, it's hard not to see all of the times that something similar has happened. And so I think, yeah, that was when Starr could really see that it just wasn't going to work out. There was no going back.
And I think you know, Chris is a nice contrast. As far as him being a white boy who sometimes is kind of, um, silly and clueless, um, you know and clueless about things having to do with being Black, but also just you know, clueless about relationships, clueless about what are you supposed to do, but endearing and well meaning.
And always willing to ask.
Willing to ask and willing to learn and willing to grow. And I think like, that's what's really, that's what's so powerful about that relationship is just that he, you know, they both are willing to grow and to change and she has to learn to let him in, and he has to learn what it means to be in, um, to be in some of the situations that he's happened to work through. I mean, I think about like the protests and the rioting that happens and his role there. So I think for both of them, they're doing a lot of learning. But you know, it's, it's still really tender, and both of them have, you know, it's just, uh, you know, you I think her dad and mom have this great relationship, and then Chris and Starr seem to have a really great relationship. And it's nice to see that.
Yeah. And but . . . it's also amazing to me that Thomas takes on so many big big issues and yet also is able to portray this relationship, that has its ups and downs, very clearly. I mean, so this is a relationship that I think would be great in any YA romance novel on its own. And yet, the fact that this is in the midst of all of these really serious moments is amazing. Yeah, I mean, it's just so well balanced. And that you see, you know, Starr is so desperately trying to get Big Mav to approve of him, of Chris, and Big Mav doesn't want to both because he's white and just because this is a boy who is dating his daughter. Yeah, it's . . . Yeah. Really masterful.
Yeah. Yeah, that that makes me think about Uncle Carlos and Big Mav, and what did you all think about all of that? I mean, I think that that was a very important part of Starr's life the two, you know, parental. I mean, in a lot of ways, they were two father figures for her.
For me, I understood, I mean, both sides of the coin because I understood Big Mav's resentment toward Carlos because of him, kind of being the knight in shining armor who came in and, and saved the day when he was in jail, but I also understand Carlos's point of view, where he basically took care of them for the three years Mav was in jail.
And, I mean, I really I thought that made a really interesting dynamic and then the fact that that he was Lisa's brother and was this father figure to, to Starr and that she clearly loved, and I mean, it was just a very interesting dynamic. And then then adding the layer of that he was a police officer.
It was, I thought it made for a really compelling story, and I just I really could empathize. It goes back to that thing, like empathizing with all the, like both the characters, and understand . . . it being able to understand it. Thomas does so well at making us understand the motivations of both characters. And I really, I thought that was a compelling storyline.
Yeah, I think the part with Uncle Carlos that with him being the police officer made me think about, um, I think it was over the summer. Do you all remember when there were, that people banned this book or they removed this book from summer reading lists?
Because local police departments thought that it communicated the wrong message. And I just thought Uncle Carlos demonstrates that that is not right. Because I think, again, Thomas does such a good job not generalizing. She does not ever say that all police officers are bad. And you have someone who I think is really endearing in the book who disproves that and so then, yeah, just to see groups generalizing about the book because it does address police violence, but it again she, she is not calling out every police officer. Yeah, the word nuance just . . . every every new point that we make, I just think she does such a good job defending her implicit argument and providing subtleties that show so many . . . so many different perspectives on Starr's life. So that it just is all encompassing. Just there are so many issues that she covers so well.
Yeah. And I think I appreciated how Carlos's perspective changed over the course of the book as far as the incident itself. And how initially he you know, when Starr asked him if he would have shot Khalil, and he did not want to say. I mean, he didn't want to say he went, you know, he was like, well, I want to believe that I wouldn't, but I wasn't there and I don't know. And then in the end him coming around to saying I would not have done it, I would not have done it, you were children, and I would not have done it. And I know that much. And I think him having to balance, you know, his attitude toward like, he wants to be loyal to the fellow officers, and not saying, you know, he's not trying to say that Officer 115 or Officer Cruz was that he was right, to do . . . I mean, of course not. But he was trying to say it's a complicated issue. But I think more and more as the book progresses and things come out when he finds out that the officer held the gun. I mean, I just think again, it was such a powerful scene where he's pointing the gun at her after Khalil is dead, as if she's gonna do something to him. I mean, I just think you know, and then also, another thing I like about it is I think that Carlos's perspective, even from where he lives and from his life circumstances there is so different than Big Mav who sees firsthand all the time, some of the horrible things that are happening with the police, and particularly I mean, that incident where they go by the store, I mean, it's horrifying, but I also think it shows how powerful they can be and how they can use that power in the wrong way. Yeah.
So I mean, like you said, Jen, I mean, I think she is not trying to oversimplify what are complex issues, but she is saying that there is a time to do the right thing. And that putting someone face down on the street because you feel intimidated by them is not the right thing to do. Shooting a kid in the back because he is reaching into his car at a time you told him not to is not the right thing to do. And that is unequivocal. So I mean, I think, you know, that part, you know, is exactly what you all said, which is that like she is covering so many different things. But I think that that message is clear. And yet, I hope it's said in a way that makes it possible for more people to hear it.
Yes. Yes. And I think that gets back to that this book does not require you to live in a city that is going through these things to understand it. She provides such a rich story that it can reach readers even who haven't had the experiences that Starr has. I mean, and lots of books do that. But I do think what you said about letting a lot of people hear it, I think really struck home because I do think it's subtle enough that you don't feel like it's hitting you over the head. And so people aren't going to turn off sort of their thoughts immediately because you come to care about the character so much and understand where they're coming from so much.
Yeah, well, and I think that's what brings about culture change. We have to get more people on board to say this is an issue that matters, and that some of the things that are happening, society can't . . . we cannot continue to stand for them, that we tolerate them, then they're going you know, those things are going to continue to happen. And so I think that's part of what's really powerful.
I wanted to say something about Garden Heights. Just because I loved Garden Heights because of the community that was there. There were some bad things that were happening in that town in that in that area, but there was also this huge feeling of community and taking care of each other and being there for each other that I just really appreciated, and I love that Big Mav wanted to have his store in Garden Heights, and he wanted to serve the community and take care of his community. I could still relate to that even though I don't I don't live in a city like Garden Heights, in an area like Garden Heights, but I mean I just what he was willing to give up for his community and be . . . and just having this need to fulfill something in his community. I love that so much, and I just I didn't want us to finish our episode without mentioning Garden Heights and the people there, and even Mr. Lewis. . . . I mean, just the whole
Well, and how he gave him the store and he was like I'm gonna retire and you know, I've got insurance money for it and you can expand your store. I mean, I thought yeah, like, he was so cantankerous. your money are also really sweet yes.
And like and then Mav giving Khalil's family money for his funeral. It just . . . there were bad things happening, there were . . . there were drugs and there was gang violence, but there was also this heart and that community that just really spoke to me when I understood Mav's worries about leaving the community, moving out of the community that he so loved because I think that does happen.
I thought that was powerful too, when you see him wrestling between protecting his family and contributing to his community and trying to make a change.
Because that's how you make the change is trying to stay there. But I also totally empathize with Lisa and being like, I want my kids out.
I want them out. Yeah. Because of all the things. I mean Starr has witnessed two of her friends just killed by gun violence. I mean, yeah, it was that was just a one of my . . . it's a small part, but one of my favorite parts of the book that . . . about this, this need to stay in your community and make the changes because you can't make changes if you're not there. But also, this self preservation and protecting of the people that you love. And it was a really interesting dynamic for me to read about.
Yeah, and I think his, like struggle with Starr about what to say to her about, you know, whether to speak out, and I think so much. Again, you could see that dilemma because, of course, in a lot of ways, and all of his actions suggest that he very much wants her to speak out, that this is her chance to see something and make a change. But then he knows all of the danger involved with that. And so I think like I really loved all of that. And I loved watching her struggle with you know, not that I wanted her to struggle, but like seeing the struggle of her trying to figure out what her role is and when to speak out and who to tell. I mean, I think that was an interesting part too. I mean, like, where Chris finds out that, you know, he's, he sees her walking away on the interview. And you know, knows that it's her and then has to deal with the fact that she hasn't told him. I mean, I think that there's a lot throughout the book about whose story is it, who gets to tell it? When is it right to tell it? And I think that that is really complicated in the book, you know, you really see like, all those complexities of is it worth it to speak out? And in the end, I think she decides that it is, that it's worth, you know, it's worth what it's going to take for her to stand up and say, Enough is enough. But . . .
Yeah, the part when it gets wrapped up in Black Lives Matter and that whole movement, I just listened to When They Call You a Terrorist, and I think--that's a memoir--but it, it just highlighted for me the decision that there are enough things that have happened to you that even though you know what people will say, when you do speak out, and when you do protest, it's still worth it. Because that's the choice that you have to make and that you have to stand out even if you know that some points of view will make it seem less than--what's the word I'm looking for--like less than a sincere action, less than a pure action, but that you still have to do it for yourself. So I thought that was really great as well. And the way that all comes about that she, you know that Chris is in the car, and that they're explaining things to him when that whole part at the end happens with the protests, and you know, the riots in Garden Heights, I think having his perspective there as an outsider who doesn't have any knowledge of that area makes it, both gives you the insider's perspective and the outsider's perspective. I think that works really well.
Yeah. What did you all think about the rioting in the end? I mean, I felt like . . . I'll just say something, and then you all can tell me what you think. I felt like, again, if she were trying to pretty up the book, she would have left it out.
Because I think that just like, the officer not being, like him being acquitted, right, is painful, but true. That rioting is also painful, but it's something that is happening when there are a lot of people in horrendous situations who feel that they have no power, I mean, goes back to power and agency. They feel angry and hurt. And then things kind of spiral out of control, but I thought that . . . so I think that that's kind of a hard . . . It's hard to work through. And so I think you know, her speaking up and like, protesting . . . But then we also see some of the unraveling of what's happening in the neighborhood and how dangerous that is right for Seven and DeVante and Chris and Starr when they're in the midst of it, and I mean her poor mom who called like the all those times when they weren't answering the phone. So like how scary it is for the people who are in it. So I like . . . yeah, I mean, I liked it. But I also thought it was it was complicated.
Yeah. It's really an interesting thing. And again, like you said, Thomas is not afraid to be messy and not afraid to have something out there that is not clearly right. Like there are problems with it. I mean, they could have died.
Yeah, and there's a whole thing with DeVante where he's like, I didn't care about their stores anyway, and then she's thinking like, that's not why we should . . . I'm trying to see if I can find that real quick. But oh, yeah, she was like, he says, "What we supposed to do then? All that Kumbaya, peaceful shit clearly don't work. They don't listen til we tear something up." And then she says, "Those businesses, though." And he says, "What about 'em? My mama used to work at that McDonald's, and they barely paid her. That pawn shop ripped us off a hell of a lot of times. Naw, I don't give a fuck about neither one of them bitches." So I mean, I feel like he is so angry, and he is right to be angry. And so Starr is questioning what it means to let these stores be destroyed. But I think that DeVante really speaks to the rage that people are feeling.
Well, that they're part of the system that he feels like he does not have a place in.
And so why would he listen? He wants people to hear him, and I mean, I think that part is really powerful. But like I said, I mean I think messy also in I mean, messy for her family, because I think I mean, then the store is destroyed, and they're all . . . they almost die in the fire. And I mean, I think we know King and his boys did that. But they use that as an opportunity to do it, thinking nothing of consequence would happen because all these things were happening all around. So I mean, I think, you know, we have somebody who's clearly kind of the bad guy,
. . . who does that to them, but it also speaks to the general chaos that was happening at that time. So. So we talked a lot about Big Mav, and we talked some about Lisa. And I said before, I think her family is so sweet and her parents are so cute. And even the . . . even the things that they even when they disagree, like you said before, Sara, about the move, and how her mom is like, we have got to get out of here and her dad has lots of good reasons for wanting to stay. Like I just felt like all of that was very understandable. But then like seeing them trying to work through that is really sweet. But anyway, we didn't talk much about Seven. When did you all think about him?
Well, one of the main themes that really stuck out to me through several re-readings of this book is the part on--it's on page 87--but it says, "Seven freezes. He turns to Chris. He turns Chris's mix off and slows down. 'Why'd you turn the music off for?' Sekani asks. 'Shut up,' Seven hisses. We stop at a red light. A Riverton Hills patrol car pulls up beside of us. Seven strains up and stares ahead, barely blinking and gripping the steering wheel. His eyes move a little like he wants to look at the cop car. He swallows hard." And there, there's this moment of tension where they are . . . I mean Seven is terrified, and he is doing nothing wrong. He is sitting in his car at a stoplight and when a police car comes up beside of him, he has this moment of terror, and all of them do. And it's just so telling to me, the fear that they're living in in the neighborhood, and it goes back to Lisa and Mav telling the kids that if you're pulled over by cop, do everything they say. Don't step out of line. And that's going through Starr's head when she and Khalil are pulled over. Because that was like . . . they told her about the birds and the bees, and they told her what to do if a cop pulled her over, and I mean that is really telling for, like, what they're living with, the fear and the environment that they're trying to navigate in their community.
And these are the people that are supposed to protect them. Yeah, I think that I appreciate that in several parts in the book. And that just reminded me of the part where she and her mom are coming back into Garden Heights after they've been at Carlos's house, and they have to go through . . . there's a blockade, and so they're gonna have to go by the police cars, and they have to talk to the officers. And I mean, it's all Starr could do to get through that incident. And, you know, she just . . . her mom realizes that she's panicking, and so it just says--this is on 165--"I grabbed my door handle. They can easily grab their guns and leave and leave us like Khalil. All the blood in our bodies pooling on the street for everybody to see, our mouths wide open, our eyes staring at the sky searching for God. 'Hey.' Mama cups my cheek. 'Hey, look at me.' I tried to, but my eyes are filled with tears. 'I'm so sick of being this damn weak. Khalil may have lost his life, but I lost something to, and it pisses me off.' 'It's okay,' Mama says. 'We got this. All right, close your eyes if you have to.' I do. Keep your hands visible. No sudden moves. Only speak when spoken to. The seconds drag by like hours." And it goes on. And you know, she gets through that, and her mom turns to her and is like, see everything's fine. But I just think I mean, it shows . . .
But it's not fine.
It's not fine, right? That's right. That's right, that you know, her mom is trying to talk her through it because what else can her mom do except try to help her through that situation, but they both know, the danger there. And the way to think the way things could go wrong.
I think Seven is interesting too because I think, not that Starr's life has been easy, but she's had this sense of trust that the right thing will happen. And I think Seven had these two very different experiences since he has a different mom, since Lisa is not his mom. And so he has gone back and forth, just as Starr goes back and forth between Garden Heights and Williamson, he is going back and forth between this family and his other family, which you know, is caught up in gangs, is caught . . . and so to see him deciding, does he make a move for himself and go to college? Or does he stay to protect his mom and really his sister? Yeah, I think that's interesting as well, just to see how even, you know the difference of one parent can make your life entirely different.
Yeah, I mean, I think that struggle with his two younger sisters and feeling like, if he leaves, things are going to fall apart for them. Yeah, it's really tough. And I don't know that there's a right answer there. I mean, I know we, you know, I as the reader, I want him to be able to go to college and live his life, but then I can see how hard that is.
And I think, even teaching where we used to teach way, which is very, very different, I had a lot of students who had to make that that choice between caring for younger siblings who for whatever reason, they had a great deal of responsibility for, or to make a choice for themselves. And like you said, of course, I always wanted them to be able to make the choice for themselves. But I think if you're in that situation, how do you not take care of your family? Yeah. So yeah, I just, he's yet another character who is drawn so well. Yeah, that it's just one more perspective on a series of complex situations.
Yeah. And I find myself wanting to read all these passages, which I'm not going to do. But I just think that moment where he stands up to Iesha and just says, No, I didn't invite you, you know, to his graduation party and how, how hard that was and how, how hard it is to think. I mean, like she said, I am your mother, you know, and kind of how dare you, but also that he's just like, you've never been there for me, like, you know, why should you be there now?
And the way in which she presents herself. I mean, he's embarrassed, and he . . . and she, I mean, she also I mean she has issues, you know with King, and there's domestic abuse and violence, but also she has this sense of entitlement that she brings with her when she comes, when she's out and right in front of others. And I mean, I think that for Seven, that's mortifying, I mean, and that . . . and that's really tough. Yeah. But yeah, she's an interesting character.
Yeah. And then I think all of those family dynamics are so interesting throughout. And I love the conversation that Kenya and Starr have ultimately about where Starr finally says, the thing that she had been thinking throughout the story, about how it's, you know, he's our brother, he's not your brother, he's our brother, and how they come around to kind of, I mean, you know, I think when she paints that picture for Kenya, Kenya can understand her perspective on that, but them having to kind of work through it and realize that it doesn't have to be one or the other.
Before we move into our pairings. We haven't talked about the title, but what did you all think about how that got tied into the book?
Well, I thought just having been a children, a child of the 90s and listen to Tupac, and I always remember the THUG LIFE on his, the tattoos on his fingers. And I had no, I mean, I had no idea what that meant back then, but to learn what it meant now, I think it is the perfect title for this book, and the fact that again, Thomas was able to weave that in to this story I thought was incredible. And I really liked, I really liked how the explanation of the title and how it came to be.
Yeah, so "'Pac said THUG LIFE stood for The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody." And so I think when you see, you know that this is centering on a child, you know, she's a young adult, but she's a child. And yeah, I mean, the title really does portray a lot of things that happened in the book and just about that choice between hate and something else is a big part of the novel as well.
Yeah. And I loved how it came up with Khalil, and like you said, Sara, I mean, I love Tupac, but I had no idea about that. And I mean, yeah, I mean, remember, you know, that's a very visible part of a lot of his pictures. Yes, I just had no idea what that meant. And so that was really enlightening. But I loved how she talked about not only with Khalil, but then again with her dad, in that whole conversation that she had with her dad. I mean, I just think it's one of those moments where you're just like, it's the moments you want to have with your kid but that don't come around all the time where you really get to kind of talk about like the heart of the issues and the way the world is, and so I loved all that where he was getting her to kind of spell it out, like explain what she thought that those things meant and the way she saw the world. And I think that was something that was important to him that he, you know, that he has a chance to kind of say, what do you think about the world? And I think it helped her to think through some of the issues. So let's get to the pairings.
So this is Jen, I am choosing a book that is out of genre, but that had a lot of connections that I think are pretty illuminating. I listened to Gabrielle Union's We're Going to Need More Wine, which is a memoir. It's structured is really a series of essays. So I think some of them you get the good gossipy stuff about her different acting jobs, and, you know what you expect from a celebrity memoir, but I also think she talks a lot just about growing up. She lived in a town where she felt like she was the only black person. It was not a diverse place. But over the summer she would go to visit her grandmother and a community that was predominantly black. So she talked a lot about how she behaved differently in the two . . . in the two towns and how she had to do code switching just like Starr. And so I thought that was a nice counterpart to reading that part of The Hate U Give.
She also talks a lot about kind of having the talk with kids. So she is married to Dwayne Wade, and they are raising his son, and I think sons and then his nephew, and she talks about the fact that they are growing up in a life of privilege, but it is still one where they are Black, and they are going to confront situations where that is a problem. And so she talks about dropping "Black bombs" on them. So she's taking them to a party at a house of friends who are white. And she talks about the fact that you know, they're not allowed to go around to any of the rooms because if anything goes missing, they'll be accused of it. There's another time that they're in their community and they're getting ready to go to like a community center kind of place. And they walk because they don't have a ride. And she just can't believe that her husband let them walk in this community because they're black kids in a community where they will be looked upon with suspicion. So I think seeing her dealing with these kids who are very, very privileged but still have to deal with the reality of being Black in white America is really interesting. And just that those kind of reality checks that you see Starr has to have throughout her . . . throughout that book, seeing Gabrielle Union's perspective as a parent, thinking through, you know, she wants her kids to have an innocence and to feel confident, but she also wants them to know what the real world is like. So that's We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union. And I will say she narrates it in Scribd, and I love hearing her read her own words, and I think she's a great storyteller. And in addition to those parts, there are just a lot of things that she's gone through. Yeah, it's just a great book in general, but also as a pairing for for this novel.
Yes, I read that one on Scribd as well, or listened to it and I, I really enjoyed it. She's great. So this is Sara, and my pairing is also out of genre and it is also a memoir. It is called The Girl Who Smiled Beads. It's by Clemantine Wamariya, and she has a co author, Elizabeth Weil. I hope I'm saying her last name right. I didn't check. I should have. But anyway, so this is Clemantine's story of being a Rwandan refugee. She started her refugee journey when she was six years old. And during the Civil War in Rwanda, and it's in the subtitle of the book is "The Story of War and What Comes After," and what . . . the reason I think that this is a great pairing for The Hate U Give is I think that in Angie Thomas's book, she comments, she's commenting on individual, like that there are individual stories, that that Khalil isn't a drug dealer. He is a person, and each person has their own individual stories. And each story is important, and each story is unique. And Clemantine, in her story, she makes that comment when people just just refer to the Rwandan genocide and lump everybody together in this genocide that happened in Rwanda. But she said, but her point in the book is that every refugee has their own story, and they're vastly different and that by lumping them all together, you're stealing some of the power and agency that those people have over their own story. And so while the books are very different, I do feel like some of this same themes arise. And I just . . . I love the book. And it is a hard read. And I would say that if you like books that have a lot of closure, you're not going to get that here because she's still on her own journey. And it's, it is pretty powerful. So I think they have some of the same themes. They're saying some of the same commentary on social issues and just political issues. But it's . . . they're very different as well. But if you like memoir, I would totally recommend it. So that is The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil.
I would like to talk about Dear Martin by Nic Stone. This is . . . this one's a lot more on the nose than either of yours in the sense that it is dealing with race relations in America, and it's talking about issues . . . gun, there's gun violence. So I mean, there's a lot of similarities. But Justyce is the main character, and he is going to an elite private school where he is one of the few black students. And he, one of the things I like about it is that he is that the way that Nic Stone sets up the story is that a lot of . . . there's a lot of debate and class discussion, and all of that is just outright in the book. And so a lot of people's perspectives are heard, and a lot of people are, I mean, it's kids, you know, and of course, it is fiction, but it is very true to the discussion among teens who are working through these issues of race relations in America. And I think that that part was just really, it was I really appreciated reading it and found it really powerful. But I also think, when I think about classroom connections, which we'll talk about in a minute, that this one's great for the classroom because it does such a nice job of showing all the sides and really just laying out the debate. I mean, like I said, there's a lot of dialogue, it moves very quickly, but anyway, Justyce is really struggling with the way things are in society. And he's thinking a lot about Martin Luther King, Jr. And so in the premise of the story, he is writing letters to Dr. King, and so that's why it's called Dear Martin is he is writing these letters to Dr. King to ask, you know, to say, how could . . . how could you . . . you said this thing, but how is this happening? Like how is this the way society is and how is peaceful resistance enough? And so in the midst of all of that there is an incident that happens that . . .I don't want to spoil anything because it happens later in the book, but it is this . . . it profoundly changes his life and calls into question even more so all of the things he was already asking Dr. King in his letters, and really just makes him have to face, in a stark and painful way, you know, right up front in his own life, some of these things he'd been thinking about more abstractly. So again, that is Dear Martin, it's by Nic Stone. And I think that it's a great read.
And also, if you're thinking about the classroom connection, it is a lot shorter than The Hate U Give, which I think page numbers are certainly not the thing that should determine what people teach in class. But sometimes longer books are extremely difficult, depending on how you're doing them with your students, they can be really hard to get through, no matter how phenomenal the book is. So I just think if you're looking for something that deals with some of the same issues, as The Hate U Give but does so more concisely, Dear Martin is true for that. So and yeah, just another it was it was a great story.
Yeah, let's talk about classroom . . . I mean, I said a little bit, but let's talk about classroom connections.
I absolutely think that you give what would work well in the high school classroom, I think it's powerful, approachable. I think it would be a great center of multiple discussions. I do think the page length could be difficult depending on the level of the reader because it is a longer book. I worked with a teacher last year who was doing some pairings, and so she read the screenplay for To Kill a Mockingbird in class with her students. And then as a companion piece, all of them had to choose either to read The Hate U Give or Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely's All American Boys. And I think that book works well because, I mean, topically, it's also about police violence, and I think it would give you a lot of discussion in common, but it's from two males' perspectives. And I just think it's an easier book physically, it's not quite as long, I don't think it's quite as dense. So I think that might work well, and I also liked that she was saying, you know, a lot of people still really love To Kill a Mockingbird, but maybe that shouldn't well, definitely, that shouldn't be the only way to approach a discussion of race. And so I think having those pieces work in conjunction with each other was a really interesting way to talk about issues of race and of you know, there's a court case in all three. Yes. So I think, but yeah, so again, The Hate U Give is great. I do think you as a teacher should probably read it first, just to make sure that it's accessible for your students.
I would say the same thing for middle school. I mean, upper middle school. I taught eighth grade, so I think we could I, I could have done the The Hate U Give with some students. the page length would be a barrier for others, especially if I'm having to read it aloud. That could take a while for my students. I was trying to think of another book, and it was this I thought about maybe Jason Reynolds's--again, he's such a great author--Long Way Down. Oh, yeah. Even though that's not about police gun violence, it is about gun violence, and it's a commentary on gun violence and . . . in a community that seems similar to Garden, what might have been happening in Garden Heights. And some of the gang relations stuff. So I think you could talk about, so I would probably would do something like that since it's a verse novel, and it would be a much quicker read for my students, but being able to hit on some of the same things that were in The Hate U Give. So . . .
Yeah, I agree with what you all said. And I think that, um, one of the things that's amazing is that there are a lot I mean, Dear Martin, The Hate U Give, All American Boys all very quickly come to mind, um, but and Long Way Down. I mean, I think so. My point is that there's a lot of ways that you could do lit circles with students and have something like race relations or gun violence or police brutality be a central focus and then have different ways that they, you know, different books that they can choose that deal with those issues and then come at those issues from different angles so that if they prefer, you know, a female narrator, then they might gravitate toward The Hate U Give if they prefer a shorter book they might choose Dear Martin. So I think like finding a way for kids to access some of these issues without, you know, and it's hard to find one book. I mean, we talked about that with whole-class reads in general, it's hard to find one book that works for every kid. And so I think finding a way to get kids into these issues and get them talking about them in a meaningful way is so important. And I appreciate what you said, Jen, about I feel really strongly that a lot of people in our area are still teaching To Kill a Mockingbird as a way to discuss race. And I think that that is an amazing book. And I think it's a it's a beautiful part of Southern literature, but I don't think it's what we need to be doing alone to discuss race in 2018 in America, I mean, that's all there is to it. And so I just think, you know, what are we gonna do to make that more of our discourse so that we are educating our society about these issues in a way that makes them think. Because I just find that, yeah, we don't have to get in the whole debate about To Kill a Mockingbird. But, you know, I just think it's easy for people because it happened a long time ago, because a lot of the racism is so overt, it's kind of easier for people to think like, that's not me. Whereas I think that a lot of the books that we're discussing, the shades are a lot more complex. And so it's a lot easier to question some of the things that you think or do or say, and what those might mean to someone. And I think that's the kind of debate we want our kids to be having and the things we want them to be thinking about.
I was thinking back to a Book Riot article called "Is It Time to Retire To Kill a Mockingbird from Required Reading Lists?" And I think that is worthy of discussion. But one thing that I like about the article is, it's by Jennifer Marer, and she says--I'm going to find it--"How do we retire what To Kill a Mockingbird gives us? How else can we educate children on the harsh historic history of our culture?" And then it has links to a bunch of pages with options. So we can link that in the show notes as well. I think it's worth a read and worth a consideration, and again, like, I love that book. I reread it--I'd read it in high school and then every read it before Go Set a Watchman came out, and I found myself loving it. But what's your purpose? Like, I think that's . . . it depends on what your purpose is, is to teach a beautifully written book. Great. It is. Is it to discuss the current status of race in our nation? That's probably not the best option. So considering purpose is important.
Thanks for listening. We love Angie Thomas's work, and we think her books are a great fit in the classroom.
Please note that we a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.