On Tuesday, Feb. 28, Angie Thomas celebrated the release of her debut novel “The Hate U Give” with a launch party in Jackson’s Lemuria Books. I was lucky enough to attend and am still reeling from how incredible it was.
I waited so long for the book’s release and to finally meet Angie – whom I’ve known for some time through Twitter – in person. From the minute I walked into the quaint bookstore and its quirky annex (where the post-book signing reading took place), I was floored by the sheer surreality of the moment and wanted it to never end.
Thankfully – it doesn’t have to.
One of the best parts of being a writer is that your words travel beyond your own capabilities, and let me assure you that Angie’s words will travel far and wide for many years to come and will enrich every life they touch along the way. John Green called the novel “a classic of our time,” and though I’ve yet to finish reading it, I cannot agree more.
Here’s why you need “The Hate U Give” in your life.
1.) It’s been a long time coming
For the past several years, we’ve been bombarded with headline after headline announcing tragic deaths at the hands of police. You know where the issue of police brutality isn’t addressed?
In children’s books.
And yet, it’s a grim conversation that parents in America are forced to have with young children every day. Do you know how alienating it is to have to fear something that, due to utter lack of representation, appears imagined? Unless you’re black, you don’t.
It’s about damn time we talked about these issues.
Read this book.
2.) It’s a lesson in empathy.
“The Hate U Give” is an “Own Voices” book, which means that it’s about a diverse character and is written by an author from the same diverse group.
In a speech to a group of community college students in New Jersey, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz spoke about the importance of diverse representation in young adult books.
“There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror,” he said. “And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them at the cultural level any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. Part of what inspired me was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.”
I love this quote and use it at every opportunity I get to explain the need for diverse representation.
“The Hate U Give” is unflinchingly raw and honest. At her reading, Angie stressed the importance of being empathetic over being sympathetic, and one of the fastest ways to gain empathy for a person is to put yourself in their shoes by reading about them.
Once you understand someone, it’s much harder to hate them. It’s much harder to turn away when they are unfairly subjected to injustices, and we all inherit a much kinder world.
Want to live in a kinder world?
Read this book.
3.) It’s truly a dream come true.
Angie got choked up several times during the event, and though I definitely have not made it as far in my literary journey, I could understand the full range of emotions she experienced. There was one moment in particular that made me tear up – a member in the audience asked Angie how she dealt with the loneliness of being a writer, and Angie assured her that thanks to her incredible support system of friends and family and fellow writers, she’d always known she wasn’t alone.
Although the completed project is undeniably stunning and more than worth the time and effort, I’m a little sad to realize that most people will never know the full experience of writing a novel – the long hours, the crushing self- doubt, the crazy ups and downs, and the little happy moments along the way that somehow add up to something massively meaningful. There are characters contained within those pages, yes, but there are just as many outside of them, and the more the author believes in her work, the more meaningful and impactful it will be for anyone who comes across it.
As I held Angie’s book in my hands, I realized that I was holding something much bigger, something more fleeting and yet somehow eternal – a dream.
Want to hold a dream in your own hands?
Read this book.