The Hate U Give may be categorized as a fiction novel but make no mistake, there is nothing fictional about it. Yes, Starr, Khalil, Seven, Maya, Devante, Big Mav, Lisa and Kenya don’t actually exist but their story does. Starr is a sixteen year old girl who lives in the hood but goes to school in private school in the suburbs. Her worlds could not be different. Over Spring Break, her best friend Khalil gets shot and killed by a police office during a routine traffic stop and Starr is the only witness. Starr must reconcile her own feelings about what she witnessed and the realities that come with it while also coming to grips how it effects her two different worlds. It gets thrown into sharp relief how her family and neighbors think what happens versus what her friends at school do. Starr grapples with her own fears and find her own voice to stand up for what rights, stand up to the authorities and her own friends too. This book is heartbreaking because it’s a story that we have seen played out too many times in the last couple of years. Khalil was unarmed when he was killed. Yes, he did sell drugs and had involvement with gangs but none of those facts should be justification for what this officer did. You could replace Khalil’s name with Michael, Philandro, Tamir, Tayvon or any other young black men unjustly killed by law enforcement and you would go through the same emotions. Angie Thomas does a brilliant job of outlining all the many view points about this issue. From Starr’s father, a former gang member and ex-con who is far to aware of how the justice system works to Hailey, Starr’s rich white friend who is willing to protest only because it got her out of class for a day. As the reader, we see what happened and how it happened at the beginning of the book. We know it was unjust but since the other characters weren’t there, we get to see how they process it through how they relate to Starr. They accept or deny it depends mostly on their own socioeconomic background and yes race plays apart of it too. Starr’s family of course understand immediately that Khalil did nothing wrong and that Starr did nothing wrong. They also know that because of the neighborhood that they live in it could be dangerous for Starr to speak out even if can help bring him justice. Whatever her decision, they always have her back. The first thing that really struck me was when Starr and Khalil were pulled over, Starr goes over in her head how she is supposed to act when interacting with cops. She says when she was 12 her father told her to do as the officer says, don’t talk unless spoken to and keep your hands visible. She was told this at twelve. Meaning that her parents thought, even as young as twelve years old she could be in danger. I tried to think if my parents and I ever had a talk about what to do if I got pulled over and I don’t think we ever did. Why would we? We are white, there is no reason for cops to look at me or my sister and assume we were up to no good. That we were criminals. That we could be dangerous but Starr’s parents and many black parents have to worry about that for their kids. That is truly heartbreaking. Two of the most interesting characters, okay maybe not the most interesting are Chris and Hailey. Chris and Hailey are both white, privileged and rich. Chris is Starr’s boyfriend. They share a love for sneakers, basketball and Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He at times is completely oblivious to their differences. He doesn’t notice or bother him that people stare at them when they walk down the hallway. He wouldn’t say he was racists and most people would agree with him but because of his own privilege, without even realizing it he sometimes falls into the insensitive thinking. He doesn’t understand why Starr is so upset with him or just in general but when she tells him he does try to understand. He wants to be supportive to Starr and that means challenging his own misconceptions and that’s what makes a good ally. Hailey also wouldn’t call herself a racist either. She would be one of those people who says, “I’m not a racists have a black and Asian friend.” Throughout the book she makes insensitive comments and try to pass them off as jokes. When she gets called out on she gets defensive. “It was a joke” “I didn’t mean anything by it” “I can’t believe you would think I’m a racist” Even demands for Starr to apologize to her. She makes absolutely no effort to see Starr’s point of view or acknowledge that what she said hurt her feelings. When she does apologize, it isn’t because she sees what she did or said was wrong it’s that she wants things to go back to what they were before. Since I assume there are going to be a lot of young white readers of this book, Chris and Hailey are important because they may not be able to relate with Starr and her family but they probably can relate to either Chris or Hailey, whether they want to admit it or not. I hope they take a hard and close look at both of those characters and ask themselves some uncomfortable questions. Are they more like Chris or like Hailey? This novel really should be required school reading. Not just because it was well written but also because it does outline all the point of views and how much it should be it’s not just black and white but shades of gray. Only be listening and understanding what people of color and marginalized communities are saying and owning up to our prejudices will we able to end this. So one day, we won’t have to teach our children how to act in police presence and police won’t make snap judgments about civilians based on skin color.
And now for something timely
Last year Rick Riordan announced that he was starting a new imprint to highlight diverse authors and diverse stories. His mythology based stories have made him famous. So far he has tackled Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Norse mythology but he often gets asked about exploring other culture’s mythologies as well. Being a while male, he has wisely said that he was not the right person the write about Mayan or Indian mythology however it did spark him to start his own imprint so marginalized authors can write about their own cultures. It was just announced the first three titles under Rick’s new imprint. Yoon Ha Lee, Roshani Chokshi and Jennifer Cervantes will author the first books. Yoon Ha Lee’s book Dragon Pearl will take on stories from Korean Mythology. Roshani Chokshi’s series, Aru Shah and the End of Time, is based off of Indian Mythology and Jennifer Cervantes’s book Storm Runner will have inspiration from Mayan Mythology. All three sound interesting and will be published in 2018. Adding all three to my to-read list.
EDIT: Rick went to his Tumblr page to give more details on his Imprint, his role and involvement with the books and more information on the authors and more indepth synopsis of Dragon Pearl, Aru Shar and the End of Time, and Storm Runner. I highly recommend checking out if nothing else for a tiny glimpse into the publishing world.
Today is the last day of February and as such the last day of our group read of John Lewis’ March. Were you able to finish all three volumes of March? What are your final observations? What will you take away from John Lewis’ story? I was really moved by his story but it also illustrated my own privilege. There are many small things that I have taken for granted. Obviously, I was raised in a different time and place but I’ve never had to worry about where I had to sit on a bus or be concerned about what truck stops to stops at when traveling with my family. My life would never be threatened because I wanted to register vote. Even now,. as more and more states tighten of voting laws, I don’t feel that my constitutional rights will be threatened but I do worry for minorities and marginalized groups having their rights stripped away. We have not come as far as we think we have. Old prejudice are hard die and I worry about how much farther we will fall back. It’s also makes me think about what I’m willing to go to jail for or willing to be beaten for. I’m not really sure. This year, I’ve already participated in my first protest march and have called my Congress representatives more then I have ever in the past. I’m not sure I have the bravery of John Lewis and Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks and so many others. I seriously hope that it won’t come to that. That we will be able to keep our protest peaceful and those we opposed will to as well. The importance of this book is so we don’t forget the mistakes of our past. To remind all of us about our history so we are not doomed to repeat it. Knowledge is truly power.
If you are like Kate and I then you are horrified about the actions of the current administration. All throughout the campaign, through his transition period, we were told not to take what Trump says seriously. He isn’t going to build a wall. He wasn’t going to ban an entire religion. He has seriously begun one and made steps to do the other. I’m almost afraid to turn on the news or go online. Even if you try to avoid social media, you can’t escape the outside world entirely. Really, for the first time, I truly feel afraid. I have now lived in New York City for almost nine years. I work on the World Trade Center. Everyday I am reminded of the terrible effects of what terrorism does to people, to cities, to nations and to the world. I see the hatred, but I also see what comes after. The love and caring for perfect strangers, the kindness that brings us all together after such horrific events. Since moving to New York, there have been two possible attacks and yet I have never been afraid. I have never been scared of being injured in a terrorist attack until the last couple of days. In one day, he has made us more of a target than we were before. He turned his back on our American ideals. I understand wanting to keep our country safe. I want to keep our country safe and the current Immigration Order will in no way keep us safe.
Last year I started reading Ms. Marvel Graphic Novels. Ms. Marvel’s alter-ego is Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American Muslim teenager from New Jersey. She is a normal American teenager. She reads comics and writes fan-fiction about the Avengers. When she meets her idols like Wolverine and Captain America she freaks out like any of us would. She cares for her friends and her family. Like most kids, she toes the line between fitting with her friends and making her parents proud. She is full of confidence and insecurities. She has doubts and fears about what she has done and what she could do. When she comes into her power, the first thing she does is save a fellow student who bullied her earlier in the comic without hesitation. When her best friend’s brother gets in trouble, she puts her fear aside and puts on her costume and goes to the rescue. She does this because her religion tells her to help others if she has the ability to. Isn’t that what we all should strive for? Isn’t that what we all should be doing? If you have the ability to help someone, shouldn’t you? Even if they are a stranger to you? Kamala Khan is a brave girl who goes out into her community and her city and helps those in need because she loves her city and community. She is brave. Muslim, Christian, Jewish, White, Black, Asian, LGBTQ+. We could all use a little bit of bravery right now. We all could use a little Ms. Marvel in us and we need to remind our representatives and our President of that, too. Ms. Marvel and Kamala Khan are the Heroes we need right now.
This February Beth and I are going to be doing something we’ve talked about but haven’t yet done. We’re going to be reading a book together (or, three books as the case may be). Starting February 1st, we will be reading March by John Lewis. This award winning book tells the story of Congressman John Lewis’s coming of age in the Civil Rights movement. We invite you to join us in this reading. As we read, we will be posting our thoughts and open-ended questions. We hope that you will join us for the reading and some discussion.
So, Beth already reviewed this book and I wasn’t paying attention at all when I started reading it that we already had a review of it. To be honest, I was just thinking to myself, “crap, I’m going to fail my own challenge! I have to step up my game!” (And, then I did go and fail my own challenge.) This book was totally worth the read. It is a number of stories that are intertwined. The first is the main narrative about Sefia, a young girl who has lived as a nomad with her Aunt Nin since her father was murdered and after her Aunt’s kidnapping has to go it alone in order to find her Aunt and take her revenge against the rescuers. Along the way she meets Archer and is hunted by the kidnappers. The second narrative is the story of Lon, a fast learner and apprentice to the Master Librarian of a Secret Society. And, then there is the story of Captain Reed and his ship and crew that are bound for the edge of the world.
I listened to this book on audio and it absolutely sucked me in. The book was read by Kim Mai Guest and she did an amazing job of bringing all of the characters to life. Like Beth, I cannot wait to for the next one to come out!
I checked this book out from the Buffalo and Erie County Public Libraries.
Our first challenge of the year will be led by me, Kate! It is a challenge focused on content creators. We give you, the Diverse Authors, Diverse Lives Challenge! There are fifteen books in this challenge and they are all author focused. The books can be either fiction or non-fiction. I will be leading this challenge because I tend to read both fiction and non-fiction, so it makes sense for me to focus on authors and not on characters.
So, if you are looking to read books from many different points of view and you’re interested on exploring some new authors this year, please consider taking this challenge!
Last year, Beth and I started the Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives Challenge. Our original challenge is made up of three mini challenges containing ten books each. There is an author challenge, a character challenge, and a medium challenge.
It turns out, if you can’t double count things, that this is not the easiest challenge to complete. I, at least, failed to complete it. This year, Beth and I decided to do something a little different. So, we’re going to have two challenges, one that Beth is going to lead and one that I am going to lead. They will be announced this week. We’re both very excited about it. We hope that you will be excited, too, and will join one or both of us on a reading adventure!