If you are anywhere close to the YA world recently, you’ve heard of The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. “It’s about Black Lives Matter”, is the way that people usually talk about it in passing. I just finished listening to the audio recording of this, and let me tell you: it lives up to the hype.
The premise is so important and relevant. A young black girl witnesses the shooting of her friend by a police officer. There is nothing in this story that is any more or less dramatic than what has been covered on the news several times over the last few years.
I think when authors fictionalize such a sensitive subject as police brutality and Black Lives Matter, they run the risk of being overly preachy or one-sided. Not with this book. The author very smartly creates a main character who is very involved in both “sides” of the issue, one who is going through the highs and lows (mostly lows) with the reader. She creates empathy in small and large moments, and plenty of places for debate and discussion. She also made it sweet and endearing in many parts, not the least of which being the throw-backs to old school hip hop music. That was a wonderful way to draw in an older audience (like me!).
I know kids across the country are reading this book in droves, but I don’t know that it’s being “taught” in the traditional sense of the word. If I were to bring this book into my classroom, I would love to have students create a culminating assignment that is solutions-based. How do we bridge cultural differences in our urban communities? How do we co-exist peacefully with law enforcement and anyone who doesn’t think/believe the way we do? What are some ways we can really “hear” each other’s experiences and build empathy from them?
I can’t think of a more important time for this book to come out. I hope it wins a ton of awards and makes it into the hands of young readers in every part of the country.