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.
We are now halfway through June so I can accurately say we are halfway through the year. It’s time to check in and see how we are doing with our reading challenges. This year we decided to split up our Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives Reading challenge into two different. One for authors and one for narrators. I’m doing the Narrators and I have to say, I’m doing pretty well. Now, I think there may be a few arguments over some of my books but who doesn’t love a good debate? Going off my list of the books I’ve read, I discovered that there were a few things we should have discussed before setting the challenge out. For instance, can you use the same book for different categories if they have more then one Narrator? I’m going to go with yes because you are getting different perspectives from different characters. So here we go.
- Book with a Queer Narrator: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan. Narrator: Apollo. Ok, so this maybe a stretch because as Kate asked me Can we apply modern categories of sexuality to ancient Gods? Well I don’t know, but in The Dark Prophecy, Apollo is currently exiled to Earth as a mortal and while being on Earth has shown equal interest in both Men and Women. So, in the context of the book, I’m counting it.
- Book with a African American Narrator: March Vols. 1-3 by Congressman John Lewis. Narrator: John Lewis
- Book with characters from various socio-economic backgrounds Silver Stars by Michael Grant. Narrators: Frangie, Rainey and Rio
- Books with Asian American Narrator: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han and The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. Narrators: Lara Jean and Daniel. I decided to count both since they are both Asian Americans but they have very different perspectives on growing up in America. Lara Jean is definitely your more typical middle class teenage girl who grew up in the suburbs. She’s also mixed because of her Dad is white so she straddles both sides. Daniel grew up in New York City and is the son of two immigrant parents. (I thought about using Natasha from The Sun is also a Star as my African American Narrator but technically speaking she’s not American as her family was living in the US illegally)
- Book with a Narrator who has survived abuse: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas. Narrator : Feyre. I really could have picked any character in this book but since it’s all from Feyre’s point of view she gets the top billing.
- A Book with a Mexican Narrator: Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare. Narrator: Cristina. I admit I maybe stretching it a little thin with this one. Cristina is one of six narrators in Lord of Shadows and not one of the two main characters but she is an important to the story as a whole so for now I’m counting it but it might change before the year is out.
- A Book with a Muslim Narrator: Ms. Marvel Vols. 2-4 by G. Willow Wilson. Narrator: Kamala
- A Book with a Jewish Narrator: Silver Stars by Michael Grant. Narrator: Rainey I know that I have already used Silver Stars before but Rainey is a fascinating character. I love reading her.
- A Book with an atheist Narrator: Believe Me by Eddie Izzard. Narrator: Eddie Izzard. He doesn’t go too much into his atheism but he does make it very clear he doesn’t believe in any god.
9 out of 15 is pretty good. Even if you take out the few iffy ones, I’m still over halfway done with my challenge. How are you doing?
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.
If you are not immediately charmed, heartbroken and uplifted after reading this then you should check your pulse. This is the perfect blend of romance, coming of age story and social commentary. It centers around a day in the life of Natasha and Daniel, two teenagers on the cusp of major changes in their lives. It also touches on the minor interactions that seem meaningless at the time but how that connection could and some times do change someone’s life. Natasha and her family are illegal immigrants from Jamaica who are being deported at 10 o’clock that night. She is trying to stop their deportation when she meets Daniel, a Korean-American boy who has the day off so he can prepare and meet for an interview for admission to Yale. From the moment they meet there is an immediate connection. They both share the immigrant experience of being from two places at the same time. Even, though Daniel was born in the US, he is often assumed to be from someplace else. He’s never Korean enough or American enough. Natasha was born in Jamaica but now has lived most of her life in the US. Her friends are here, her future is here she doesn’t want to leave. When they meet though, their futures couldn’t be different. Daniel’s life has already been planned out for him while Natasha’s is now unsure. Daniel’s parents are dead set on him and his brother to have a better life then they did, which means, Yale and becoming a doctor and marrying a Korean girl. Natasha, was planning on going to college and was going to be a data scientist and now all of that is uncertain. Anyway, they meet and while they don’t know anything about each other they know they have a special bond from the beginning. Daniel is a poet and romantic. He’s convinced that their meeting was fate. That they are meant to be. Natasha is a scientist and a realist. She doesn’t believe in love is real or anything that can’t be scientifically proven. As Natasha tries to kill time before she meets with an immigration lawyer Daniel convinces her to spend time with him to prove that love can be scientifically proven and so they go allover New York, getting to know each other and becoming first friends and then falling in love. They meet each other’s parents and face each other demons. While the story focuses on them, we get glimpses into the lives of the people around them. From their own family but the random people that they briefly come in contact with. The security guard that scans Natasha’s bag, the secretary of the lawyer. They all paint a picture of how we all relate to each other and how our decisions big and small can change a complete strangers life. It’s something to think about. It was talks about how racism presents itself in other communities. Daniel’s Korean parents own a black hair care store in Harlem but when his father and his brother meets Natasha they treat her in their shop. They own a shop that caters to black shopper and yet they can’t even hide their own negative biases. This was a beautiful novel that not only tells a perfect story of two kids struggling to figure out who they are while dealing with the forces outside of their control but also doesn’t shy from taking on tough issues of racism, immigration, depression and even family. You need to read this book is all I’m saying.
I bought this book as part of our Diverse Narrators Reading Challenge. Reading the synopsis and some of the reviews, I think this book is going to be relevant to what’s going on in our country. I’m really excited about jumping in.
So question for you. As you know, here at Stacks are trying to broaden our horizons by seeking out stories, narratives and authors from diverse voices. Last year we created our Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives Reading challenge and we had mixed results. I think we both only completed half of the challenge. This year we decided to split up our challenge and focus on different aspects of the our original Challenge. Kate is leading our Diverse Authors Challenge and I’m spearheading our Diverse Narrators Challenge. So far this year I have read 10 books and I have read some diverse narrators from Essun in The Fifth Season, Ms. Marvel and Frangie and Rainey from Silver Stars. I’m starting to read King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard, who has described her main character, Mare as a mix race (white/Latinx). I’m looking at my challenge and wondering about characters like Mare and Essun. They are both described as olive or dark skinned respectively. They are not the traditional white heroines that we have come to identify in fantasy and well fiction in general but they do not reside in our world. They live in a fantasy worlds that the authors created on their own. In the case of Mare though, she lives in a world that came out of the ruins of the US after years of wars and natural disasters. Technically, Norta is the US but hundreds of the years in the future. So can we count them in our challenge? Is it cheating? Or is it okay since they represent people and cultures in our world. They may not be African American or Latina in the sense that we define them but they represent that narrative. Women of Color can look to these characters and others like them and see themselves in them and isn’t that in the spirit of our challenge? So dear readers out there, how do you define diversity in our reading? Are strict in definition or if a character is define as “dark skinned” or “olive skinned” or anything but “fair skinned” as a diverse characters?
Let’s discuss this, sound off in the comments below.
With only 2 months left of the year I thought I would take a look at my chanllenge and to see how I’m doing. Not good. Of the 54 books I have read only 13 fall into any of our reading challenge requirements. I realize this is my fault is that I haven’t done a very good job of pushing myself to branch out from norm. The Sub-challenge I’m doing the best is the genre one and the The Sub-challenge that I’m doing the worse is the Author challenge. It turns out I read a lot of women authors, a lot of white woman authors. Not that there is anything wrong with that but I’m missing out on some really great books.
So I have 8 weeks left to read as many diverse books as I can. I’m in the middle of book 14 because Hammer of Thor has a Trans Character and I have 15 and 16 already picked out so at least I’ll be halfway done. I’ve got a lot of reading to do.
I am working on putting up a page that will contain links to books and authors that can serve as suggestions for anyone looking to diversify their reading stacks this year. I was just going through my BookBub emails from the weekend and I googled all of the authors of books that interested me and noticed that they were not all that diverse. So, I went to check what my preferences were set to. There are categories that are just LGBT and African-American interest. I just changed my settings today, so hopefully this will bring a little diversity to the subjects and authors in my daily emails.
It does, however, raise a really obvious question: If LGBT and African-American interest are separate categories, then who is served by all of the other categories (which are subject based and not demographic based)? This is why diverse reading challenges are important. Books with African-American characters aren’t only of interest to African-Americans and until readers start demanding diversity in the genres they read, this kind of categorizing won’t change.
(That being said, since African-American and LGBT voices aren’t well represented in broader categories, I think this kind of categorization is needed and important.)
Beth and I have done a lot of talking about the kinds of things that reading can do for a person. It really is a magical thing. It can transport you to different worlds. It can imagine new history. It can see potential futures. Studies have even shown that reading literary fiction can help you relate better to other people. So, with this in mind, we’ve put together our first reading challenge. Inspired by #weneedmorediversebooks, we’ve come up with a challenge to make us think about who we are reading and what we are reading about. Our challenge has three sub-challenges: one related to characters, one related to authors, and one related to books themselves. Each sub-challenge is only ten books long, so you can do any of the sub-challenges without changing how you read for the whole year. As a reader, you can tackle the whole challenge or one or more of the sub-challenges.
I will be maintaining a page here on this blog full of possible books to fulfill the challenge that I find in my reading travels. Of course, any suggestions will be helpfully added to the list. Part of what makes diversifying your reading difficult is that you don’t always know something is diverse going in. We are going to endeavor to make that easy by keeping a separate page of suggestions.
Since this challenge is only 30 books, we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of diversity in literature and in life, but we hope that this list and the books that are read because of it will create interesting and thoughtful discussions. We hope that you will consider taking the challenge and reading along with us in 2016!
Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating today. In keeping with tradition here at Stacks, we are going to share what literary things we have been grateful for this year. I’m going to go first.
I am thankful for my Nook Tablet. Now this is something that I have never thought I would say. I bought it because I got a heavy employee discount on it when it first came out but I haven’t used it all that much until this year. Since leaving B&N, I’ve had to buy more books than I have ever had before. I much prefer the real deal when it comes to reading but I have to admit the convenience of my Nook has its benefits. The books themselves are cheaper. I don’t have to get dressed to the bookstore. I don’t have to wait for them to be delivered and they take up space in my apartment. My place is already overrun with books as is. Plus, my nook is a little easier to read on the train to work because it doesn’t take up as much space. So thank you, Nook. You will never fully replace books for me but you have come in handy.
I am thankful for #Weneedmorediversebooks movement. It has made me aware of my own privilege which I never really thought about. I’m sure if you look through the books that I read you will noticed that they are mostly all women but you also will noticed that they are also mostly all white. And their characters are also mostly white as well. I’ve been trying to be find more authors of color, who are from different backgrounds from me but also look for books with protagonists who are from different cultures. I’ll admit that I still have work to do but I am trying. Thank you for Sabaa Tahir, Marie Lu, Julie Kagawa and Nnedi Okorafor just to name a few. I hope that 2016 will bring new authors and new voices.
I am thankful for book clubs because it forced me to read books that I probably would never have read on my own. Also, it’s also fun to talk books with friends.
I’m thankful for J.K. Rowling’s twitter. I’m thankful for her in general but following her on twitter just reaffirms everything I have ever thought about her and that I really want to be her friend. She’s smart, quick, funny and does not suffer trolls. She truly is a bright spot on the internet.
And finally I’m thankful for all you reading. Kate and I started this blog for fun. A way to keep connected and talk books but I think it’s fair to say it has passed our own expectations. I thought that maybe a few of our real life friends would read it and comment but to have complete strangers from all over the world, like our blog and leave comments has been so much fun for us. If it wasn’t for you, I’m not sure that Kate and I would have been as motivated to keep updating the blog. So with complete sincerity, thank you.