Emotionally Riveting Book
I picked up a copy of The Hate U Give from Costco last year and finished the easy read in June of 2017 on a flight from CA to MSN. I ended the book as I often do, in tears. This was before I launched the Laufty Life Blog. In fact, I was working on marketing for my friend’s company and was returning from my first business trip. Nonetheless, I felt stirred up by the deep subjects addressed by the novel. Racial injustice and police brutality, interracial dating and the challenge of navigating two distinct settings as a black female. As I sat alone on the plane dabbing at the corners of my eyes I wrote a review:
The book is centered around the character Starr. Starr’s family lives in Garden Heights a low-income neighborhood with high crime. Her father is an ex-gang member that served time and flipped his life to legit with the ownership of the neighborhood convenience store. Her mother works in health care and she has a strong emphasis on education so she sends the kids to a predominately white private school in the suburbs.
Starr struggles with Identity
One of Starr’s struggles is navigating her two different worlds. The daily turmoil to choose a certain version of herself to present in these distinctive settings. She fears she will look ghetto if she talks to black around her wealthy white friends. She hides her home life from Chris her white boyfriend and struggles not to take it personally when her white schoolmate Hailey makes ignorant statements. Yet when she returns to her home her black peers give her grief over her prissy life at Williamson preparatory school.
Touching on the identity issues that arise when a person must weave in and out of two cultures. I found that storyline to be very relatable for anyone who is in a multicultural family like ours. We literally go from my husband’s side of our family holiday celebration in the suburbs with cornfield’s lining the back of his parent’s property over to my mom’s packed apartment in Madison. Both family gatherings warm with love but the spread of food, the volume of conversations and the gift distribution is different.
“That means flipping the switch in my brain so I’m Williamson Starr. Williamson Starr doesn’t use slang-if a rapper would say it, she doesn’t say it, even if her white friends do. Slang makes them cool. Slang makes her “hood”. Williamson Starr holds her tongue when people piss her off so nobody will think she’s the “angry black girl” Williamson Starr is nonconfrontational. Basically, Williamson Starr doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her ghetto.”
The other major storyline arises when Starr’s childhood friend Khalil is gunned down during a routine traffic stop. Starr is in the passenger seat and experiences the trauma of witnessing the shaky young white cops split-second decision to shoot when Khalil makes the mistake of reaching for his hairbrush.
Starr suspects from Khalil’s flashy expensive attire that he has gotten caught up in the gang lifestyle and may be selling drugs. They discuss Tupac, an extremely intelligent writer with so much heart behind his word. Using the acronym from the lyrics of the greatest rapper that ever lived (in my opinion) THUG LIFE – the hate you give little infants f*#ks everybody.
Meaning that inequality penetrates the youth. White privilege, prejudice, police brutality cannot be discredited. The way our society treats and views young black men affects the opportunities that they are given to advance. When there is a lack or gap in opportunities, people are forced into lifestyles and they make choices that are fueled by desperation.
I loved the relationship between Starr’s parents Maverick and Lisa. They demonstrate the strength, playfulness and deep black love. Yet they still acknowledge the struggles they went through in the earlier phases of their relationship. Maverick’s entrepreneurial spirit brings hope and his commitment to remaining apart of the community is inspiring.
Grand Jury Case
I’m a groupie for courtroom drama. I’ve watched the trials of OJ, MJ, Jodi Arias, and Micheal Dunn, just to name a few. When Starr becomes the key witness in the grand juror case against the police officer, I am hooked. This book was layered with so many riveting and relevant topics. I had no idea the book had been picked up for a film. When I saw, it was playing at the local theatre I took mama to see it. Once again tears flowed from my eyes as I watched the scenes I had previously constructed in my head on the big screen.
It’s not uncommon for me to be moved to tears by an emotional novel or dramatic film. I realize now as a writer, that is the goal. You want to make the reader feel something. Put themselves in the character’s shoes and to have a strong reaction one way or the other.
Starr’s bravery can teach us all something about what it takes for change and progression. No doubt hate still exist in America. It’s hard for us to see each other’s perspective and when we only seek to reinforce our own beliefs, we miss the chance to truly understand each other. Starr’s uncle played by Common is a cop and gives the check and balance to the black lives matter movement.
The book does a better job at character development than the movie does. Especially when it comes to the contentious relationship between Starr’s dad Maverick and her uncle Carlos the cop. I also think her white boyfriend Chris is glazed over in the movie as compared to the book. Still, I would strongly recommend this film.
Raising biracial girls and dealing with their intertwined cultures will be a lifelong challenge for our family. I hope that they never need to be ashamed of their blackness, that they never feel forced to choose which side of their ethnicity to present in different settings. I pray that they can celebrate their beautiful blended lives without shame, fear or prejudice. This book and film are enlightening and can begin to bridge the gap and start the conversations we so desperately need to have in this country.