Audio books had served me well in the first few months of having my second kid. My idea in selecting books to read (during maternity leave/summer/pandemic) was to alternate between reading a young adult novel and a book of my choosing. So, immediately after giving birth, I started listening to, “The Golden State” by Lydia Kiesling. This was enjoyed with great hilarity, especially due to the serendipitous timing of its content – a book about a mother on the verge of a meltdown traveling with her toddler. I, myself, was adjusting to caring for a newborn and having a 2 year old in the house. After I finished this wonderful novel, “The Hate U Give” was next, having been on my to-read shelf for over a year.
George Floyd had just been murdered. The Black Lives Matter movement was experiencing a massive resurgence across the country and world. This was the landscape in which I read “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas.
I start listening to “The Hate U Give” during my late night feedings without knowing its content. At first, it reminded me of Renee Watson’s, “Piecing Me Together” partly because it had to do with a girl attending a school outside of her community- a school with a mostly white population AND non reflective of her neighborhood. I had this comparison in my mind until, very early into the book, a childhood friend of the protagonist, an unarmed Black male, is killed by a white police officer.
This novel is honest, topical and necessary. In addition to tackling the very serious subject of race and racism (from individuals and institutions), it also addresses self-esteem and worth, gender roles, culture and the challenges between people from different social economic statuses – including expectations, stereotypes, perceptions and equity.
It was a surreal feeling. In the novel it was a police shooting, and in real life it was George Floyd, being pinned down by a police officer, exclaiming, “I can’t breathe,” dying shortly thereafter. At the same time, protest were occurring all around the country and the world, on top of the pandemic.
After I finished, “The Hate U Give,” I discovered that Angie Thomas was compelled to write this book after the 2009 shooting of a young Black man by a transit officer.
I also confirmed that “The Hate U Give” is included in ALA’s Top 10 most challenged books of 2018 and 2017 (http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10). According to the ALA, it was challenged in 2018, “because it was deemed “anti-cop,” and for profanity, drug use, and sexual references” and reasons cited for 2017 were because it is ““pervasively vulgar” and because of drug use, profanity, and offensive language.”
Being Latina, I learned about the repression of people of color later in life. I learned about the atrocities of the slave trade – how families were torn apart from one another, about how Hernán Cortés and his men brought, along with horses and Catholicism, Smallpox, killing millions of indigenous people – and about how lands were stolen from Native Americans over and over again. On a personal note, I learned that my parents were physically reprimanded for speaking Spanish in school and of examples of institutional racism such as public pool, near where my mother grew up, that had a sign reading “No dogs or Mexicans.”
This generation of young people can and should have the opportunity to hear the truth, and be exposed to these narratives. For this reason, it is of utmost importance that books like “The Hate U Give” remain in libraries and schools. These books must not be banned, hidden or repressed. In times like these, it is more important than ever for people to have access to books that address history, and reality and perspectives that are the same or different from their own. They offer a window into someone else’s experience or mirror their own. All the more reason to challenge censorship by encouraging intellectual freedom and promoting works like this that challenge institutions.
Term Paper on “Diversity in the Young Adult Collection”
Purchase “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas from Edna’s Booktique in Duncanville, Texas. https://pemberton-jones-education-group-inc.square.site/
American Library Association – Frequently Banned Books – http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks