SAJU: Everyone should read ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas
Opinions Column: Pride, Not Prejudice
“That’s why people are speaking out, huh? Because it won’t change if we don’t say something.”
“Exactly. We can’t be silent.”
I knew "The Hate U Give" was important to read before I even picked it up or before I saw all of the award stickers emblazoned on the front. These politically charged times sparked a desire in me to search for a piece of writing that would fundamentally alter my perception of the issues plaguing our society. I found what I was looking for with this story, and yet it still managed to surprise me with the numerous complicated issues it tackles, as well as the depth with which it tackles them.
This follows 16-year-old Starr Carter and the constant social balancing act she plays by going between her poor Black neighborhood and her fancy suburban prep school. When her childhood friend Khalil is murdered by a white police officer, she must decide whether to throw this balancing act away to fight for something bigger.
While it is cliche to talk about how one laughs and cries with the characters, this novel causes the reader to do so much more than that. We internalize their experience. In Starr’s friends (Chris, Hailey, Maya, Kenya, DeVante and Kahlil), I found characters that reflected the words and actions of myself, my friends and my classmates. Many of them grow and struggle throughout the book to change while others do not. In Starr’s family members (Lisa, Maverick, Carlos, Seven and Sekani), there were positive aspects that echoed my own family. I saw a complicated family dynamic was no match for the love between them. You do not just laugh with these characters. You snort at the ridiculous fights Starr has with her brothers and giggle at the descriptions of her parents’ embarrassing dance moves. You cannot just cry with them. You get choked up when Starr remembers childhood memories of Khalil and tear up at Khalil’s grandmother’s reaction to his murder. Each character is fully fleshed out, and they stay with you long after you put the book down — fictional faces in a very real movement.
Only by wanting to understand one another can we begin to address the issues around us. In times of social and political upheaval, it is vital that we do not turn from each other. Instead we must turn to each other. While book smarts in college are important, we must be as well. Make time to explore topics outside of class. Experience the struggles that come with your daily life and read about the issues that other people face. Care about the world around you enough to make your mark, and raise your voice for those who cannot. Make a conscious and continual effort to educate yourself before speaking. Read books like this one.
Throughout “The Hate U Give,” Starr is faced with the decision whether to speak out about the events that occurred the night Khalil was murdered or stay silent. Her painful journey to decide the best course of action once again plays a balancing game. But, instead of balancing her different identities at home and school, she must weigh the guilt of silence and the burden of activism. If she keeps quiet, she is safe. But if she decides to speak out, she will be telling the world an uncomfortable truth that may be denied anyway. The author, Angie Thomas, shows us at just 16 years old Starr carries the grief of two lost friends, and the heart of a movement on her shoulders.
Thomas, if you are reading this, I want you to know that we really needed this book right now — thank you for writing it. And thank you for adding your voice to the chorus of those that are fighting for a better world. Your writing moved me on a personal level, and someday I hope to add my voice to the many others who want to break the silence.
"This is bigger than me and Khalil though. This is about Us, with a capital U. Everybody who looks like us, feels like us, and is experiencing this pain with us despite not knowing me or Khalil. My silence isn’t helping Us."
Neha Saju is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student planning on majoring in political science and history and minoring in English. Her column, "Pride, Not Prejudice," runs on alternate Mondays.
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