Every Friday I will be recommending a work of fiction or non-fiction written by a woman who has influenced and shaped my intersectional feminist perspective, with special emphasis on women of colour, women in translation, LGBTQIA women and women of different religions.
I’m not usually one for reading fiction that’s classified as ‘young adult’ but there was a lot of conversation going on around Angie Thomas’s debut when it was first released last year. Conversation that desperately needed to – and still needs to happen – concerning the gun violence, police brutality and the structural and deeply rooted racism in American society that disproportionately affects communities of colour and has unnecessarily claimed many black lives.
The Hate U Give follows Starr Carter, a sixteen year old black girl who straddles two worlds – that of the poor, predominantly black neighbourhood, Garden Heights, in which she lives with her family and the rich, predominantly white prep school she attends. Told with unflinching honesty, Starr witnesses the murder of her friend by a white police officer in the opening chapters. The narrative then follows her journey as she becomes increasingly frustrated by the complete lack of justice being done. At the trial and in the media, her old childhood friend is being morphed into a ‘gang member’, ‘drug dealer’ and ‘criminal’. He is being fit to fill the mould of a story that would make the most sense to a white audience. As Starr comes to terms with what she has witnessed, she eventually finds her voice and realises she can no longer stay silent like she has been advised to do. As The Hate U Give concludes, Starr emerges as an activist with a burning sense of injustice in the system she has grown up in.
Although categorised as ‘young adult’ Angie Thomas’s debut transcends this, making it a classic that will stand the test of time. Through references to the civil rights movement, Tupac – whose album, THUG LIFE, the novel is named after and the Black Lives Matter Movement, Thomas highlights issues that have affected and still are affecting communities of colour in America today. Her style – which manages to be evocative, emotional and funny all at once – also firmly establishes her as a serious writer. I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.
Angie Thomas is an African-American writer born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. The first black student to graduate at Belhaven University with a degree in creative writing, Thomas’s debut novel was inspired by her outrage at the deaths of black people likeOscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Mike Brown, Sandra Bland amongst many others at the hands of the police and the inspiration of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Her upcoming book, On the Come Up will be released later this month.