I was first introduced to Angie Thomas at the CCCU Forum dinner in late January as she was honored as the recipient of the Young Alumni Award. I listened with intense curiosity as she was introduced and as she responded to receiving her award. To say that I was impressed with Thomas would be an understatement. Her perspective and ability to pull together a complicated topic currently facing our society and deliver it in a narrative is relevant and compelling. I couldn’t wait to purchase her book and begin reading. I left the Forum, purchased The Hate U Give, and finished it in two days. I challenge CCCU Advance readers to pick up a copy of this book and see what God might show you about your own perceptions, racism, and the unconscious assumptions you and I make every day.
The Hate U Give is often referenced as a book about the Black Lives Matter movement, but it is much more than that. The book delivers an honest and open picture of the challenges of racism, police brutality, and media messaging while also representing varying perspectives of the situation. The reader is inserted into the life of 16-year-old Starr Carter, who finds herself in conflicting communities – Garden Heights, where she lives, and a private prep school she attends in a wealthy neighborhood. This creates an interesting challenge for Starr, who loves both communities but sees in them opposing views on issues of race and injustice. Starr witnesses the deaths of two friends to gun violence – one in a drive-by shooting and the other by a police officer. We are pulled into her struggle of how to speak up publicly, against the police, and with her family and friends.
Starr’s journey as the only eyewitness to her friend Kahlil’s death after they are pulled over on the way home from a party frames the story and brings the reader into a new view of what took place. Starr is faced with the dilemma of trying not to reveal her dual and competing loyalties while still sharing the truth of what she has seen. Starr struggles to find her voice as the media twists what she knows to be the truth, ultimately finding a way to represent the life of her friend and not backing down from those who would want her to change or silence her story.
What I loved most about The Hate U Give was the uncovering of truth around differing positions of racism and prejudice. I was challenged to think differently and not assume I understand situations at face value. I was heartbroken by the pain felt in communities and by young people every day. I was challenged to speak up and create space for others to speak. But mostly I was thankful for the work of Angie Thomas, who so eloquently took a difficult topic and created a way to educate my generation and the next.
Yes, there is language in this book that one might find offensive. I would challenge you to set that aside for the greater learning and perspective that can come from reading The Hate U Give. If we are open, I believe there is room for the Lord to speak to each of us through the work of Angie Thomas.
Deana L. Porterfield is the president of Roberts Wesleyan College and Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, New York.