Author Angie Thomas says personal experience informs “The Hate U Give,” her acclaimed YA novel about a young black girl whose unarmed friend is shot by police.
Speaking at a Harvard Book Store event this week, Thomas said that, like her novel’s protagonist Starr Cater, she grew up in a poor, predominantly black neighborhood while attending largely white schools.
Straddling those two worlds wasn’t easy, especially in college, because Thomas said she didn’t want to be viewed by her peers as a “poor black girl from the hood.” As a result, she didn’t share much about herself, which taught her a lesson that is a key element of the book.
“If you have a friend in your life who you’re having trouble sharing your vulnerable experiences with, maybe they’re not your friend,” Thomas said.
In addition to her own backstory, Thomas said the “Black Lives Matter” movement was an inspiration for “The Hate U Give.” She said she wanted to incorporate settings and themes familiar to an audience not accustomed to seeing themselves represented in media. If that helps black teens find their voice, all the better.
“It’s scary sometimes, but the scariest part is not making yourself heard, it’s correcting the people in your life you think you’re closest to,” she said.
Thomas also hopes her book encourages readers to think about black men differently. Intentionally, the acronym of the book’s title is “THUG,” a term used to describe some black men.
“There are different types of black males,” Thomas said. “Stop making assumptions and putting them in boxes.”
There’s some controversy surrounding the movie being made based on Thomas’s book. YouTube star Kian Lawley lost his role in the film after a video of him making racist statements appeared online.
“Due to the controversy surrounding his past comments and behavior, Kian Lawley will no longer appear in ‘The Hate U Give,’ ” a spokesperson for Twentieth Century Fox Films told CNN Wednesday. “The studio plans to recast the role of Chris and reshoot scenes as needed.”
The film stars Amandla Stenberg as Starr Cater, and Lawley was set to play Starr’s boyfriend.