The Story We Know

The Hate U Give starts like many stories: an ordinary Friday night; teens letting off steam, drinking, blasting music, yelling loud enough for the whole world to hear. Spring’s right around the corner and they’re at the height of their youth. They have every intention to live these precious moments to their fullest. So they dance, socialize, reconnect with old friends, old flames.

But one girl stands alone—a wallflower—abandoned by the friend who all but dragged her there in the first place. She scans the room, her connections with the people around her are slim at best, nonexistent on average, and she is painfully aware of their opinions of her. She’s a stranger, her sudden appearance in their world makes her a veritable unicorn, only she doesn’t feel particularly special.

Then, He spots her. Her old friend from childhood, now on the cusp of being a man. They catch up and it’s almost as though they’ve simply pressed ‘play’ on the friendship they paused so long ago. Things are good, but she knows he’s hiding a secret, and before either of them is able to say what they truly wish to say, they’re fleeing together from a fight a neither of them knew anything about.

The Story We Seldom See

The Hate U Give (2018); 20th Century Fox

They’re in his car. He’s driving her to safety, still careful to dodge her concerns regarding his secret. Then, a cop stops them. He shines his light in their faces, forces her friend out of the car and against the hood of his own property. When the cop finally relents, her long lost friend comes to check if she’s okay. Then, suddenly, bang. He’s gone, just as quickly as he’d returned; he’s gone, and she’s left to pick up the pieces.

 You’ll notice that the story takes a quick turn from the typical coming of age tale that we so often see in the movies. Instead, Angie Thomas connects the events of her debut novel to the real-life scenarios we see all too often in the news: unarmed black teens (and adults) gunned down and posthumously vilified by the very people who took an oath to protect them. Stories like this are sadly quite common.

But through Thomas’s grounding in real world events, she ensured that The Hate U Give would be seen, read, and understood by a wide audience for years to come. She displays, through great detail, the lingering trauma of survivor’s guilt as the protagonist, Starr, is forced to navigate her grief and regrets towards her fallen friend. We are given an in depth look at what is typically hidden by the media portrayal of shootings and hate crimes.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Most often, these tragedies are treated like tv shows and we, as viewers, are only allowed to see the sensational: the outrage and sadness. Seldom are we shown the quieter moments. When the cameras stop rolling, we don’t see the trembling hands of black drivers when they pass a police car, nor do we hear the arguments between parents about what’s best for their community versus what’s best for their children. When the cameras stop rolling, we watch a new show.

But through Thomas’s writing, we get to see everything. She doesn’t shy away from any of the hard truths behind prejudice and police brutality nor the self-perpetuation of hate which remains present within the black community. She shows us two different wars fought in the same battlefield: the war between the black community and society; and the war between the black community and the so called “thug life”. Both of these wars draw the same conclusion: that “The Hate U Give Little Infants F***s Everybody.”

For more on The Hate U Give and to see Angie Thomas’s other works: The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas.

3 thoughts on “Now Read This: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

  1. Hi there,
    I thought your breakdown of the story into “the story we know” and the “story we seldom see” was a fascinating and accurate way to look at the book. Just as the media in the story and in real life painted Khalil as a gangbanger, something he was not, the classic sort of teen party for these characters hides behind it a horrible danger. For simply being kids going out and having some fun, just as most teenagers do at some point in their lives, Khalil was murdered. The stark contrast been the fun at the party and then the shooting and Khalil’s death goes to show how racism can just rear its ugly head into the normalcy of everyday life, whenever and wherever, making it all the more dangerous. Thank you for the great post.

  2. Hi,
    This was a really great read. The part juxtaposition of what we know and what we seldom see was a very interesting way to think about this book and the topics it covers. There is a great point that you mention, were when a tragedy like this happens, we often only see the “sensational: the outrage and sadness.” I think that is spot on, and you do a great job expanding on that. Talking about the smaller moments that the camera doesn’t show. The lives of people affected by these tragedies that are often times left to pick up the pieces themselves. Thanks for sharing!

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