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MAR Book Review: The Hate U Give

Each week Moms Against Racism will review a book from our monthly book list and provide questions and prompts for discussion with your kids. Let us know how it goes!

The Hate U Give is a powerful award-winning Young Adult novel written in 2017 by Angie Thomas and inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. This contemporary and timely story follows the events which transpire following the shooting of an unarmed Black teen and the ways in which this tragedy affects his friends, family, and community.

The novel is centered around the main character of Starr, a Black teen who feels caught between two worlds - the Black neighbourhood in which she and her family live and the wealthy predominantly white private school she attends. As Starr struggles with feeling as though she is living a double life, topics such as race, systemic oppression, activism, police brutality, gangs, addiction, friendship, family dynamics, and grief are covered, as well as the complexities of interracial relationships and numerous disparities between white and Black communities.

This novel is a powerful and emotional read for teens and adults alike. The character of Starr provides a positive representation of a strong female role model, and some excerpts may be appropriate to share alongside younger children as discussion points with parental guidance. The book does contain strong language as well as reference to drugs, gangs, violence, and sexual encounters, therefore it is recommended for an older audience as an independent read. None of this content is gratuitous, but due to the more mature nature of these topics parents may wish to preview this book in advance of their child reading it. We also strongly recommend reading alongside your child in order to prompt conversations and further discussion.

There are numerous important topics for discussion throughout this book, but the following questions focus on MAR’s August theme of racial injustice. Try the following questions as a discussion starting point after reading:

  • Starr refers to the police officer who kills Khalil by his badge number instead of his name. Why do you think she does this? How do you think Starr feels about police officers in general? Does this change over the course of the book?

  • Starr talks about a conversation when she was young in which her parents tell her what to do when encountering a police officer. Have your parents ever had a similar conversation with you? Why or why not do you think this is?

  • There are many instances throughout the book where parts of Khalil’s life are shared and discussed by police officers, the media, other people who did not know him personally, and his friends and family. How and why does what is discussed change based on who is talking about him?

  • Code Switching is defined by as “the modifying of one's behavior, appearance, etc., to adapt to different sociocultural norms”. Throughout the book Starr straddles two worlds between her school and the neighbourhood where she lives, often causing her to feel like she is two different, separate people. Why do you think Starr feels the need to change her behaviour in this way? How do you think Starr would be viewed at her school if she didn’t code switch? What about in her neighbourhood? Are there any other characters who code switch? How do the various characters modify their behaviour when they are interacting with police officers? Why do you think they do this?

  • Do you think the reaction of the residents of the Garden Heights neighbourhood is appropriate once the jury makes their decision about Khalil’s death? Why or why not? What about Starr’s reaction? How do the neighbourhood protests and reactions compare to the protests and reactions of students and staff at Williamson Prep?

  • What can you learn from this book to help you use your voice to fight against inequalities and promote social justice?

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