Friday, March 10, 2023

Book Review: The Hate U Give


Some books stay with you long after you read the last line, shut the book and put it away. THUG is one of them. 

#BlackLivesMatter is merely a hashtag for most of us- the headlines we read, the posts we RT and the videos we share do not capture the reality of what it is to be black in America. A place where a driver can be pulled up, asked to produce his papers, be patted down three time, and then shot because the policeman felt he was dangerous. “A hairbrush is not a gun” chant the activists; yet it on that suspicion that 16 year old Starr Carter’s friend was gunned down and left for dead.

Starr, who was vocal about demanding justice on social media, is struck dumb when she is required to speak up. The book traces her gradual realisation that she has the responsibility to use her voice. She doesn’t feel terribly brave, but her mother tells her “bravery is not the absence of fear. Bravery is being afraid, but doing it anyway.”

Starr is also one of the few blacks in her high school, and is acutely conscious of the fact that there are two Starrs who speak and act quite differently. As she finds her voice to speak for justice, she also goes through the process of discovering who her true friends are, and which of them deserve to remain in her life. Though the reactions of her classmates, the author also explores how non-blacks react to the issue. Many who clain allyship do so on their terms only, and resent it when a black person tries to set the tone of protest.

Why did Starr’s friend take to a life of petty crime- not because he chose to, but because he had no choice. When there is no industry, when blacks aren’t encouraged to learn and aren’t recruited even when they do, do they have too many options to earn? How does it matter if Starr’s friend was a drug peddler or not- does he deserve to be killed on that suspicion? These and many other questions remain after the last page is read.

This is a book all of us need to read. To understand our privilege. And hopefully be more empathetic while demanding justice for the oppressed. 

As always, I am amazed at the maturity and nuance in books which are technically termed YA. 

And, yes, THUG LIFE according to the book stands for "The Hate U Give Little Infants F*&$s Everyone"

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