This is the book: The Hate U Give.
The picture is linked. You can buy the book today. You can be finished with it by Saturday. At the latest.
And when you’re finished, you will have read a powerful first-person fictional narrative about a 16-year-old named Starr who is in the car when a police officer shoots her friend, Khalil. You will have read about Starr’s fear and guilt. You will have learned that at sixteen, this is the second friend she’s lost- the first in a drive-by shooting. You will have read about her community, her family, the complex web of decisions, and the way the story of Khalil’s murder is spun.
You will have read of Starr’s friends and their reactions. The was casual white privilege and intentional white sensitivity cut at her in a time of grief. You will laugh hard at some of the conversations, especially the fight during a prayer, and you will weep at the pain of many of the characters.
I have been trying to figure out how to start a Young Adult book club at church, not only for the purposes of reading YA literature, but also to have discussions with high schoolers and young adults about some of the issues in the world. The Hate U Give would open up so many doors for conversations regarding race, power, privilege, and social and family dynamics.
Starr and her friend, Maya, are talking at one point about a third person, Hailey, whose racist statements and actions have hurt them both. As they reflect, Starr tries to think about how long the behavior has been going on:
That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be? (252)
The narrative moves very quickly, mainly because it is a character-driven plot. In Starr’s world, as in most people’s, there’s never only one thing at a time happening. The grief over a death is entwined with other concerns, frustrations, and needs. The waves of reactions to Khalil’s murder and to Starr as the witness reveal how deeply these issues cut and how widespread the pain is.
As I write, we are waiting for a verdict in the case regarding the death of Philando Castile. We wait to see if the officer who killed him will be convicted. We wait to see if death is the normal conclusion of being pulled over for a broken taillight. I would push harder and ask if we should entertain that idea, but it seems to me that present-day America is no longer entertaining the normalcy of black people dying at the hands of the police, but we’ve invited to move it in and stay permanently. It is hard for me to believe that anything different will happen in the case of Philando Castile in the same way that I doubt anything regarding gun violence (or white male terrorism) will happen following the shooting of Congressional baseball players in Alexandria yesterday.
Back to the book. I may not believe that things will change, but that does not mean I will remain silent about their wrongness. I believe The Hate U Give is and will be a seminal book in communicating the pain and trauma that occurs following one of these shootings. It will open a curtain into a world that many people feel free to discuss, but do not know.
The only struggle I see with this book is that the reader must be woke or willing to be woke to trust the truth of the story. Starr proves throughout the book that she is a reliable narrator. As a character, she is reliable and truthful within the context of the story, which conveys her reliability to the reader. Yet there are people, personified in Hailey, who will choose not to believe Starr’s story. And rejection of her story is essentially rejecting the stories of other witnesses, dead and alive, who still proclaim that we can’t reach equal when so many people are willing to kill for separate.
The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, AK. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit.
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3 thoughts on “RevGalBookPals: The Hate U Give”
Thanks for reviewing this book! It is excellent. I read it and a few of my parishioners have read it. One of them even told me that it helped her to understand some of the complexity in a trial that is happening now in the Twin Cities.
Thanks for this! I have a thought about a potential collaboration related to young adult readers. Nancy Rue (http://www.nancyrue.com/) is a friend, and author, who has done a lot of writing for and mentoring with tweens and young adults, though she has shifted her writing in recent years to adult fiction. I think she would be very open to a conversation about a young adult book club, and at the very least chat via conference call with a group from your church. You are welcome to say I referred you to her (Anne Fraley), should you want to be in touch with her (contact link on the web site). I’ll be on the lookout for “The Hate U Give” for my own reading!