by Nicole Baart
I have a confession: it took me a long time to work up the courage to read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. It was on my “must read” pile for months, but I kept avoiding it. I knew that it would be a hard read. One that would challenge me and make me cry. I wasn’t wrong. But, friends, this book was worth every single tear and then some. I honestly believe it should be required reading for Americans. Period.
The Hate U Give is the story of Starr Carter, a young woman who lives caught between two worlds: the comfortable suburban neighborhoods of her prep school and “The Garden,” a low-income community on the wrong side of town. Starr feels like she can never truly be herself (she’s too black at school and too white at home), but her life is thrown into chaos when she is the sole witness to the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Soon the entire country is taking sides. Khalil was either a drug dealing gangbanger or a poor kid horrifically murdered at the beginning of his life. Both sides become embroiled in the tragedy as Starr struggles to find her voice and the courage to share the truth about what happened.
While The Hate U Give is an important book at this particular time in our country’s history, it is much more than just a social or political commentary. Angie Thomas pens powerful characters whose emotional impact runs deep. It’s impossible not to be swept up in the unflinching yet tender narrative as readers are invited into an experience that may be very far from their own reality—and it is impossible not to be moved.
As the mother of minority children, this book resonated with me in a heartbreaking way. Our country needs to come to grips with both the history and current impact of our deep-seated racism, and our destructive tendencies to quickly categorize people into “them” and “us.” I hope that authors like Angie Thomas—whose ability to weave a moving, impactful story invites us to walk a mile in another person’s shoes—are given a wide and receptive audience. Our county, our world, and we as individuals will be better for it.
Nicole Baart is the mother of five children from four different countries. The cofounder of a non-profit organization, One Body One Hope, she lives in a small town in Iowa. She is the author of seven novels, including, most recently, Little Broken Things.