The Hate U Give – A Necessary Read

The Hate U Give - A Necessary Read

Ava Brenden, Staffer

At Lake Oswego High School, we are lucky enough to study a wide range of books, and our teachers are dedicated to diversifying this selection further. Unfortunately, not every school is in the same situation, and as LOHS is moving to include more types of books from more diverse authors, other schools are moving to ban them. Though I’m not here to discuss all of the somewhat controversial or banned books that you may read here at LOHS, I do want to touch on a particular book that we read in Freshman Honors English: “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. It was a truly perspective-altering book for me, and one that has sadly been restricted from some students in different states.The book serves harsh writing and a powerful message that is essential for young students and readers alike to experience. 

The young adult novel follows 16-year-old Starr Carter, a black girl who lives a juxtaposed life in a poor black neighborhood and attends a predominantly white and preppy high school. In the first few pages, her best friend Khalil Harris who is also black,  is pulled over by a white police officer while driving home from a violent party and eventually shot by the police officer after Khalil reaches for his hairbrush. Starr, who was sitting in the passenger seat witnesses the entire event, and the book follows Starr as she is forced to recount and speak about the tragedy, as well as address the racism that follows her at school, in her neighborhood and in the rest of the world that she lives in. 

When I first read this book I was in eighth grade, and to be honest, I didn’t fully grasp what it was trying to say. It sort of went over my head, so when I picked it up for the second time my freshman year, it was almost like reading a new book. I was no longer afraid of the vulgarity or confused at what the book was saying; and yet, I was young and naive enough to know nothing about the racial violence that exists in our country. “The Hate U Give” opened my eyes and spiraled me into research and education that people are lacking so much these days. I learned about the real Khalils and the real Officer 115s, and I learned about the real Starrs who work so hard at fighting for justice. 

“The Hate U Give” was a raw account of grief, abuse and entanglement that I found so unique to the book. It was such a real experience to read, and it made me think about people who actually live through this. It did what every story strives to do: it made me put myself in Starr’s shoes and live through every gut-wrenching experience that she has to live through. Aside from demonstrating how amazing Angie Thomas is at writing, this book transcended audience boundaries and created a narrative that touched everyone in a different way. It was not created for a race or gender; it was created to move you. And it did. Which is why I can’t wrap my mind around people wanting to ban this book, or pushing back on reading the story in schools. 

The most common argument made against “The Hate U Give” in an academic setting is the profane language. While there is definitely a lot of swearing within the book, it is not mindless and without purpose. Teenagers swearing is realistic, and it’s not like we’ve never read a book with swearing in it. We read essential classics like “To Kill a Mockingbird” freshman year, and other books like “Salvage the Bones” and “The Things They Carried” later on, and all contain profanity and pejoratives. There are obvious standards that should be set within a classroom setting about appropriate language, but there is rarely a time where profanity interferes with the impact or the necessity of the book. 

Another argument (and one much more confusing) that is made against “The Hate U Give” is the supposed “anti-man” and “anti-police” narrative that is central to the storyline. This was always confusing to me, because criticism of something is rarely “anti” whatever. Nowhere in this book are there messages against men, but there are messages that point out the racism that specifically pertains to black people or more specifically, police violence against black men. Throughout the novel, Thomas effectively displays real events of blatant racism, aggression and descrimination, while also acknowledging the reality of criminal and gang activity in her story. Many people like to assume that because the perpetrator is a police officer this story is a message of hate. It’s not. It is merely pointing out the police brutality that black people in America face, and to deny this is or make it out to be an exaggeration of reality is turning a blind eye completely. “The Hate U Give” is not anti-police. It’s anti-racism. And frankly, no one should have an issue with that concept. 

While I understand that not everyone will enjoy this book as much as I did, I still think that it is a necessary read for people in high school. You could argue against reading it freshman year, but to me, that was when it was most impactful, as I was young and learning new things and just starting to begin to understand “real” issues that were happening around me. It was moving,  it was powerful and it was beautifully written, and while I understand some pushback against the novel, I ultimately believe that this book is something that should be embraced by education systems and I am grateful that we have the opportunity to read it here at LOHS.