The Hate U Give - author interview with Angie Thomas
Angie Thomas (@writerzambitionz) talks to us about her debut YA novel, The Hate U Give, which tells the story of Starr, who is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend by a police officer.
What inspired the book?
I was inspired to write the book back in 2010/2011 after the death of Oscar Grant, a young black man who was shot by police in Oakland, California. At the time, I was a lot like Starr – I attended a mostly white, upper class college while living in a mostly black, poor neighborhood. Every day, I found myself in two different worlds where I had to be two different people. I also heard two very different conversations about Oscar. At home, he was one of our own, but at school he may have deserved it. From my anger, frustration, and hurt, I wrote the short story that would later become The Hate U Give.
Why did you decide to write the book from Starr’s point of view?
I knew from the beginning that I wanted to write the story from the point of view of a young black girl. With so many of these cases of unarmed black people who lose their lives, the victims are young - Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice to name a few - and so many young people are deeply affected by the losses. But a lot of times, the focus tends to be on young black men, and I wanted to show just how much it affects our girls as well.
How much of it is drawn from real life?
I tried not to draw from real life cases too much for multiple reasons. One, these are actual human beings we are talking about, not simply hashtags - it’s not my place to tell their stories. But I wanted Khalil to reflect them in a way.
Were you nervous writing about such a controversial subject?
Yes, I was extremely nervous - so much so that I was afraid to send it to literary agents. I knew it was a timely topic, but if you say, “Black Lives Matter” to 3 different people, you will get three different reactions. Sometimes they’re positive, and sometimes they’re not. But I felt like I wrote the story straight from my heart and I stood by my words, despite being nervous about how people would receive them.
Was it difficult to get the book published?
Surprisingly, no. While I was afraid to send it to literary agents, one day an agency held a Q&A session on Twitter. I asked if the topic of my book was appropriate for a Young Adult novel. A literary agent responded and said that not only was it appropriate, but that he would like to read it. A few months later, I signed with him, and a few months after that, 13 US publishers fought for the rights as did multiple UK publishers. The book I was so afraid of ended up being the book for me.
What were you most nervous about in the publishing process?
I was the most nervous about the reception. Even after all of the publishers fought for the book, I knew ultimately that potential readers could make or break it. So far, the response has been incredible.
How did you arrive at the title of the book and how do you think it reflects the story?
The title comes from the infamous “Thug Life” tattoo that Tupac Shakur had across his abdomen. So many people know him for that tattoo, but most people don’t know that it was actually an acronym for “The Hate U Give Little Infants F**ks Everybody.” He explained that as meaning that what society feeds into youth has a way of coming back and affecting us all. That’s exactly what happens in the book.
What message do you want readers to take away from the book?
That empathy is more powerful than sympathy.
What’s happening with the film adaptation and how involved are you with that?
The script for the film is currently in development. Audrey Wells is penning it, and George Tillman Jr is set to direct. I’ve been very involved in the process - from having day-long meetings with Audrey and George to multiple phone calls in a month where I give insight. I’ve been very happy with the process so far.
What has the reaction to the book been so far?
The reactions to the book amaze me every single day. I’ve had so many teens in particular reach out to me and thank me for writing it. I think that because the topic is so timely, that’s helped create a lot of buzz.
What role do you think literature has to play in examining difficult real-life issues?
Literature plays a huge role in examining difficult real-life issues. I see writing as a form of activism - it can give us windows into lives and issues that we may not otherwise have, thus promoting empathy. And when you understand an issue and share the feelings of those who are directly affected, you’re more likely to join in on the fight. Literature births activists.
What is next for you?
I’m currently working on my second YA novel. It is not a sequel, but more so a spin off of The Hate U Give. It’s set in the same neighborhood and some characters from The Hate U Give have major roles in it. I can’t say much about it, but it’s causing me to put my hip hop/rapper past to use.
The Hate U Give is published by Walker Books UK on 6th April.
King Butterfly thought Star and Marco were dating but also showed he was okay with it. He could run at speeds of at least 120 mph so if he didn’t like Marco he could have easily taken Marco out. Also Marco didn’t deny it the first time. Also this show will be the death of me.
Imparting advice is tricky — while I am always excited to and interested in speaking with women of color about how identity intersects with their own writing, I’m still very much in an incubation period. I am a slow writer, (it’s looking more and more like I read more than I write), I don’t take as many chances as I’d like to take, and sometimes I feel too susceptible to too many opinions or hashtag-type waves of precipitous discussions. What I will say and what I’ve always said is, it’s vital to meet other women writers — women of color writers especially — and to surround yourself by them. The year that followed college I was still living in that residual space where I seemed prone to writers named Jonathan (yikes!) and where I thought being smart (whatever that means) was the ultimate pursuit. I was not writing for myself. I have since learned to write for the three or four people (mostly women) who I admire most on this planet, who I know hear and love hearing my take on things. A litmus test of who those people are would be to check your inbox. Who do you write your best emails to?
After college, I was surrounded by too many white male writers and journalists. They were everywhere! I even wrote a dopey fan letter to, of all people, Jonathan Franzen, seeking advice. He wrote back, months later, and recommended I read Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge and added the following: “My first piece of advice, perhaps already unnecessary, is to seek out a reader or two whom you can trust to be maximally and lovingly hard on what you write.” The words “lovingly hard on what you write” were not, for me at least, the right advice, though I guess it was cool that he wrote back. Thing is, I was already hard on myself. As a woman of color, aren’t we all already so hard on ourselves? Either trying from a young age to fit in, or be the best, or be invisible? What I needed was to trust myself more, trust my voice, let it run a bit before it could walk, and believe that my own way of seeing things and making connections were valid. It’s funny to write now, but even a year ago, I felt like my words were illegitimate. Meeting other women writers of color, especially so in the last year, has given me so much momentum. The ways in which a simple, knowing nod can encourage me back to my computer are breathtaking. I now write not just as a reader but as someone who trusts that my lived experience can offer more to the conversation. Sometimes I just remind myself to feel valid and to know that I can only approach the macro through my own micro experience.
Too many people on black twitter, especially black women, unknowingly follow this predator named Yao Khari (@Iamyaokhari), he claims to be a feminist and yet is a paedophile and a rapist and has admitted to forcing a 12 year old child give him oral sex and is known to have harassed countless black women. There was a time when a hashtag was started to raise awareness to what a scumbag he is (#BlockoutYao) and he was more annoyed at the fact that he was losing followers. He is a misogynist, monster and a vile predator who uses feminism as a ruse to get close to women to prey on. Too many abusers are infiltrating our safe spaces, please look out.
talking about violence is stressful because violence encourages violence and all the #metoo posts my friends are throwing up remind me of all the times I was with them when it happened and got rid of the guy for them by insulting them, or by shouting at them, throwing drinks/anything at them, or punching them. And how many times did I get assaulted back when talking didn’t cut it before other people intervened. I’ve confronted so many men in my life I can barely ask them to stop more than once before losing my patience and resorting to violence. I learned violence from them. I’ve actively used it against them. I’m tired.
It’s so saddening to see how many women on my Facebook friends list are posting “me too.” And what’s even sadder is that there are doubtlessly many more who aren’t posting for whatever reason despite the hashtag applying to them. The count doesn’t stop with those who’ve posted.
Look back on AP’s 30 years with us with the hashtag #AP30
AP 174 // January 2003 // #AFI –THE MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASES OF 2003
“Sure, we could go on forever about how rad 2002 was for new music, but we’re too psyched about next year to care. Check out what’s in store in ’03 from AFI, Saves The Day, Thursday, Dashboard Confessional, The White Stripes, Thrice, The Mars Volta, Alkaline Trio, Godsmack, Andrew W.K., CAVE IN (official), The Dillinger Escape Plan, Poison the Well, The Locust and many, many more. Plus, we sneak-peek 2003’s most anticipated movies, dishing out exclusive dirt on T3, X-Men 2, Daredevil, The Hulk, two new Matrix movies, and others you’re waiting for some pirate with a camcorder to upload so you can see them early.”
I think this hashtag was BEYOND petty on both parts. It really shows how emotionally distraught our generation is and how too many of us refuse to take the higher road. I seen some funny memes, but I know many people actually think in the mentality of - ‘Tit for Tat’.
This isn’t about wasting time it’s about being malicious and vindictive, which ultimately is why we have countless amount of people who are bitter, fearing commitment, partially committing, angry, going ghost or holding grudges. Hurt people hurt people and this hashtag proved it.
오늘 하루도 저물어가요 🌑다들 어떤 하루였어요? 하고싶은 말이 너무 많아서 너무 아쉬워요ㅋㅋ잉 저 해시태그를 너무 많이 달아서 글이 안달렸었나봐요 인스타 초보😂 이 기회를 맞아 저도 우리 멤버들한테 하고싶은 말 간단히 해볼까해요ㅎㅎ
해찬 -내가 아끼고 귀여워하는 재간둥이 막내 해찬이 좀만 덜 까불면 얼마나 더 귀여울까☺️ 마크 -내반쪽 마크 매번 말했지만 형은 언제나 너의 편이야
윈윈 -내칭구윈윈 둘도 없는 나의 베프 워아이니
도영이형 -도영맘 나를 항상 챙겨주는 따뜻한 도영이형 항상 고마워형 밥사주세요
쟈니형 -쟈니파파 같이 있으면 든든하구 아늑한 내 룸메형 요즘 밤마다 같이 게임하는거 너무 재밌어요 ㅋㅋ
태용이형 - 나의운명태용이형 연습생때부터 지금까지 우린 절대로 떨어진적이 없는거 같아요 이건 거의 뭐 운명이죠 이왕 운명된거 죽을때까지 운명하자 형
유타형 - 산남자유타형 형이랑 대화할때마다 잘 통해서 너무 좋아요 우리 앞으로도 많이 얘기해요형
태일이형 - 막내 아!아니다 맏형이였지 태이리횽ㅋㅋ 생각은 누구보다 깊죠 놀때 역시 나랑잘맞아👍앞으로도 제 응석 받아주세요 #계속해서함께하자 #그리고여러분도요#능숙한해시태그 #인스타고수등극#NCT127 #Limitless #무한적아 #재현#Jaehyun
Trans: Today is coming to an end 🌑 Everyone, how was your day? I want to say many things it’s too badㅋㅋ I used too many hashtags so i didn’t put a caption. Insta novice😂 I will take this opportunity to say things I want to say to the members brieflyㅎㅎ
Haechan - talented maknae haechan whom i cherish how cuter would he get if he behaved better Mark - my other half mark, I always tell you but hyung is always by your side Winwin - my chinggu winwin, my one and only best friend wo ai ni (i love you in chinese) Doyoungie hyung - doyoung mom, always caring for me, warm doyoungiehyung thank you always, please buy me food Johnny hyung - johnny papa my roomate hyung, always reliable and cozy when i’m with him. recently it’s so fun when we play game together these nightsㅋㅋ Taeyongie hyung - my fated taeyongie hyung, from when we were trainees til now i think we haven’t been seprated before. i think we can call this fate. let our fate continue til we die, hyung Yuta hyung - Mountain man Yuta hyung, when talking to hyung i like really like that we connect well, lets also talk more in the future, hyung Taeilie hyung - maknae-ah! nope you’re the oldest hyung, taeilie hyungㅋㅋ your thoughts are deeper than anyone else, as expected we get along👍 please continue to coddle me #LetsContinueToBeTogether #AndEveroneYouAlso #ExperiencedHashtags #PromotedToInstagramMaster