Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

hate u give 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.

Advertisements

What I’m Reading Now: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

labyrinth lost

I bought this at BookCon in June.  Excited to finally getting to it.

Update: Already in love now that I know they Brujas live in Sunset Park!

Rick Riordan Presents

dark prophecy 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.

Review: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

img_0711

 

Friends, oh my god this book. It deserves all of the praise and all of the awards. And, it did win the National Book Award for Fiction! You should read it. As soon as possible. This book.

 

This is the story of Cora, a slave who runs away and escapes from the South on the underground railroad. Whitehead weaves a tale here that is smart and funny and makes so much of America’s history real. Cora starts by telling you of her Grandmother Ajarry and how she was taken from her village in Africa, put on ship and bought and sold in America. Cora then tells us about her Mother, the only slave to runaway from Randall plantation to never be caught. Then, she tells us her story. The narrative from the start makes plain that even “good slave owners” were not good by contrasting Cora’s owner with his brother. Yes, her owner doesn’t go in for harsh punishments or random beatings. But, he’s still indifferent to the plight of the humans who live around him (And, he still owns people, which, I hope we can all agree, is fundamentally wrong). Cora and Caesar make a plan to runaway from the plantation and to take the underground railroad. This is a bit of genius on the part of Whitehead; in this novel, the underground railroad is a literal railroad with station masters, conductors, trains, the whole lot. This gave the novel that magical realist feel. It also gave the story some mystery and gave me, and Cora, something to think about. “Who built this?” she asks. And, person after person says to her, “Who do you think?”

Caesar and Cora’s first stop on the railroad is South Carolina, which Whitehead has set up as a place where former slaves are slowly integrated into society. As part of the integration into society, everyone is required to have regular health checks. Some of the former slaves in town have “blood disorders” and have to come in for regular check ups. But, do they have blood disorders? Or, is something more sinister going on. If you know your American history, you can guess probably guess that something more sinister is going on and what that something might be. Additionally in this part of the story, Cora works in a museum, which allows Whitehead to compare the narrative of American history with the lived experiences of Cora and other slaves and former slaves in the story.

From here Cora moves onto North Carolina, Tennessee and Indiana, all while being pursued by the slave catcher Ridgeway. This gives the novel some tension while also pointing out how society put a wedge between lower income whites and slaves by making catching slaves a lucrative business.

From reading other reviews on Amazon, it seems like people either other or hate this book. (I’m obviously in the love category). One other reviewer said that “there was nothing new here, we know all of this from history.” I feel like this misses the point. Yes, Whitehead has incorporated a lot of American history into this novel. But, he’s done it in a way that his interesting and shocking and he’s given us characters we can sympathize with. This is a book that dramatizes some of America’s racist past and that gives us room to think about and interrogate our understanding of that past and our feelings about it.

I listened to this book on audio. The narration was done by Bahni Turpin and she gave the characters life and personality. I really enjoyed the work she did on this.

I checked this book out from the Buffalo and Erie County Public Libraries.

 

Review: The Reader by Traci Chee

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.

Diverse Authors, Diverse Lives Challenge

diverse-authors-diverse-lives

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!