After reading this book, I can certainly see what all the uproar is about. ‘The Hate U Give’ addresses the very sensitive issues of race relations and police brutality in a time when the nation is torn over these issues. Most of my friends are at one extreme or the other when it comes to the #Blacklivesmatter movement. Since I don’t want to incite an online mobbing, I’m going to do my best to avoid that movement specifically, while sharing my thoughts and opinions on this wonderful book.
First of all, this is a very moving story. It centers on a teenage black girl, Starr Carter, who leaves her crime-riddled neighborhood each day to attend an affluent school across town. In both settings, she feels a need to conform to the social norms. This means that she lives a double-life of sorts — she has one persona with her black family and friends in her neighborhood and another one with her wealthy, predominantly white, friends from her school.
One night she attends a party in her neighborhood that turns violent. After leaving the party with her childhood friend, Khalil, her life and her community is forever changed. A routine traffic stop turns tragic when an unarmed Khalil is repeatedly shot by a police officer after failing to follow police instructions.
The events of that night serve as the spark that sets off an explosion. Starr’s neighborhood has a long-standing animosity for the police, citing multiple instances of police brutality and harassment. The death of Khalil is only the latest in a long line of atrocities.
Begrudgingly, Starr is forced into the center of a media feeding frenzy. Part of her wishes that she could just hide and return to her “old” life, while another part wants to be brave and stand up for what she believes is right. She was in an extremely difficult situation for a young girl.
Although she initially tries to remain anonymous, as the sole witness of Khalil’s murder she eventually speaks out publicly. Doing so, Starr learns a lot about herself and the people that she surrounds herself with. Some will stick around to support her, others will reveal that they were never really who she thought they were.
While this book certainly highlighted the issue of police brutality against blacks, there were several other takeaways for me. I applaud the author for not shying away from other issues that are controversial. For example, racism – against multiple races – was prevalent throughout this story. I appreciated that the author was forthcoming in addressing this topic, even knowing that it would likely be controversial. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Racism is still racism and it is wrong, regardless of the race.
Although I did find the danger of Starr’s neighborhood to be exaggerated, the author also highlighted the issue of violent crime, drugs and gang warfare. Several times, there were drive-by shootings or other crimes committed in Starr’s neighborhood by the residents against the residents. It was sad and the author did a good job of highlighting this issue/cycle of violence.
One notable, older man in the story commented on this and I couldn’t have agreed with him more. There was a lot of senseless violence and crime in Starr’s neighborhood. As he said, the government needn’t look further than that neighborhood to find a real terrorist. The people lived in fear, not only of the police, but of the crime lord in their midst.
The conflict in Starr’s family over whether to stay in the neighborhood, despite the danger, or move to a safer neighborhood, also was enlightening. There were a lot of mixed feelings and a sense of betrayal that accompanied her parent’s desire to “better” their situation and that of their children. It reminded me of that saying about crabs in a bucket, always trying to pull one back in before they can get out. There was certainly plenty of pressure and resentment, both within and outside of her family where this was concerned. They had to balance their desire to improve their situation against the repercussions of being viewed as sell-outs. The same was true for Starr’s uncle, who was a police officer.
Overall, this was a wonderful book. I’d definitely recommend it to others, regardless of their views. It provides plenty of food for thought and raises awareness of several important social issues.