I read The Hate U Give because, not only was it constantly being advertised, it was the book of the month for the Our Shared Shelf virtual book club.
I was really excited to read it because one of my friends mentioned that it was an influential book for the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Now, in my opinion, if I didn’t already believe that black lives do matter, this book wouldn’t have convinced me otherwise.
The problem was that there was no connection to the main character. It’s not that she wasn’t relatable, because she was, at least for me. I can relate to not wanting to sound ghetto around white people due to the fear of judgment. I can relate to needing to separate parts of your world with different people. I can relate to constantly having the pressure of “which identity do I need to be right now” in the back of my mind that disconnects me from the moment and my reality. Very relatable, no connection though. That probably has to do with the fact that she is emotionally unavailable. She had to get hard because, well, her life has been horrible. Her family, as odd as it is (which I won’t go into detail as to why since it has little to do with my argument here, but it is rather interesting and is beneficial to the character dynamic of the book), is probably the only thing keeping her sane. (The rest of this blog contains spoilers) She watched two of her best friends getting killed….heck she watched one of her best friend getting killed when she was too young to process death, let alone murder. I can only imagine the emotional impact it can have on her. That’s probably a good cause as to why she had to shut down. She didn’t shut down in the angry teenage angst kind of way, more or less, she just stopped expressing herself. She expressed her thoughts constantly, sure. She expressed how she felt, or how she felt she needed to feel. But the majority of the time, she just felt like a narrator rather than a protagonist.
I get it. She has a painful story to tell, and if I were in her situation, I probably wouldn’t have had the magnitude to tell it. Maybe if she made Khalil more of a person rather than a memory, things might have felt different. I know that he technically was a memory…but the thing about the mind is that it can make memories feel real. She could have written him to be somewhat present. The way her aftermath occurred made it seem like she just underwent a very traumatic experience….if I didn’t know that he was her best friend, I wouldn’t assume that he was. It was too…detached. Or maybe she’s just more grown up than I am, but if my best friend was wrongly killed, I’d be broken to the point of dysfunction. That is why I couldn’t connect with her. If her emotions were a little more extreme it might have changed the whole story. If she were angrier, or more fearful, or even completely dead inside (this is a teenager we are talking about, after all…I’ve been there….it’s crazy) and she is acting all responsible. But, I guess the end result is that it got the message across. No matter how well you cooperate and follow the laws, black people still have injustice brought upon them. No matter how many right things she did, in the end, she still lost the war. So I would say that the protagonist here isn’t really Starr, but the black lives matter movement itself….leaving the antagonist to be the system.
“‘Pac rapped ’bout that stuff too, yeah, but he also cared ’bout uplifting black people,” says Daddy. “Like he took the word ‘[n-word]’ and gave it a whole new meaning–Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished. And he said Thug Life meant–”
“The Hate U Give Little Infants F—s Everybody.”
I didn’t grow up listening to Tupac. I only really know a few songs from him but I always knew he was a big deal….kind of like Elvis, Michael Jackson and The Beatles…although I didn’t grow up listening to them either. Suffice to say, I might not have the best music taste.
Regardless, I never knew this about Tupac. I asked a friend who loves him if this is true (because part of me thought this was just a theory from the author…kind of like the gang theory from Harry Potter [also mentioned in the book…which makes total sense and that’s somewhat the reason I liked the series]) and she said it’s true (even if it weren’t true, that wouldn’t take away from the book. It’s a cool saying). Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because, since it is true (according to my one source, so don’t take my word for it), I feel like all his work in the progression of black people has gotten lost somewhere. I don’t mean black people in general. I mostly mean the hip hop artists, whom, instead of using the N word as an empowerment tool, they use it to bring other’s down. The usage of it in the songs these days is similar to using the B word. There is no grace to it. So it’s sad that Tupac made it meaningful, and that these new artists, whom claim to be inspired by Tupac, are shattering that legacy.
Now thug is an appropriate acronym. I do believe that, even though we try to act otherwise, we are affected by how others view us and treat us. We become the product of our environment. It’s why we love stories with underdogs, and going against all odds and other unreal things that don’t normally happen to the average person. We are amazed by the unordinary because we are prone to become numb to our surroundings. People settle. It happens. We let our dreams die. When our dreams die, it affects the world. Think of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” There was a plan for your existence, and if, for whatever reason you stop honoring that path, it affect the world…directly or indirectly.
“This neighborhood makes young men deaf to their elders”
The truth to this statement caused me to pause and digest. Sometimes, when the situation seems overwhelming, we stop listening to wisdom and start listening to the fastest way out. I don’t blame Khalil for needing to sell drugs (before we knew the real reason). When people are taught to believe that you won’t accomplish much, you look for a way out. You think you will be an exception. You think you’ll figure it out the way no one else has done so before. Life is extremely personal and it’s hard to believe that you are just a vulnerable piece in the game of life. Elders are wise from their experiences and obseravations. Youth blinds us to time because the pressure of it feels deathly.
“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”
One of the reasons I loved reading this book is because the family had strong moral values…well….to an extent. It’s hopeful to read about people continually trying to do good regardless of the circumstances. It’s easy to give in to the darkness, and this family kept trying to be better…to do better even after they’ve already made countless mistakes. George W. Bush made a speech where he said “Self-correction is the secret strength of freedom. We are a nation with a history of resilience and genius for renwal.” That’s essentially what the characters in this book embraced. It’s refreshing. I’m always reading books where characters are trying to justify their actions but here….they face the truth, as ugly as it is and learn from it.
I also liked that the main family had to fight off racism…not just from the cops…but internally as well. Starr had to face dating her white boyfriend after a white cop shot her best friend. She knew it was wrong to judge him by his color, but…it is what it is. There is this invisible line when two cultures (whether ethnic or religious) merge of what’s appropriate and not appropriate. Starr refused to let any of her white friends in on her personal life…and she doesn’t introduce her black friends to her white friends. She is certain they wouldn’t understand (and there is truth to that) but she doesn’t even give them a chance. She, without realizing it, judged them. It happens. The question though is whether or not you let arrogance rule your thoughts. She learned to try and see the best in people regardless of the exterior. Great character development.
Daddy once told me there’s a rage passed down to every black man from his ancestors, born the moment they couldn’t stop the slave masters from hurting their families. Daddy also said there’s nothing more dangerous than when that rage is activated.
As a minority, I often find myself livid about the injustices of the past and the present. I can’t really explain why that happens, or why it feels so strong….but this works as a possible explanation.
I don’t know if I would recommend this book. It wouldn’t be for everyone. I would recommend watching the movie though. Although it hasn’t been released yet, the trailer pretty much gives the story away. Frankly though, I’m displeased at the direction they took of Khalil’s last moments…with him reaching for the brush. The way it was written in the book was so much more…intimate. His last moments were of him worrying about Starr…whereas in the trailer, it seemed he care more about impressing her, or showing off. Won’t know until the movie comes out, obviously.