Thursday of last week, NYT best-selling novelist and Mississippi-based writer Angie Thomas announced on Twitter that a Texas school district had banned her book “The Hate U Give.” The critically acclaimed novel “The Hate U Give” has made the longlist for the National Book Award for young people’s literature, was the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner for fiction and has been on the New York Times list for young adult best-sellers for 39 weeks. It has even been optioned for film adaptation. However, the Katy Independent School District has made it clear this novel is not welcome on their library shelves.
This ban was brought to Thomas’ attention by a tweet from a student of the district.
PLEASE READ IF YOU CARE ABOUT BANNED BOOKS AND THE FREEDOM TO READ IN KATYISD!! 281-396-2304 email@example.com pic.twitter.com/yTGIRlCjBo
— abby (@abbyberner) November 17, 2017
The student claims the district’s superintendent, Lance Hindt, banned the book unilaterally without conducting the normal review process. It is believed he did so in response to complaints from parents about the book’s use of “inappropriate language.” However, many within the Twitterverse, including the student themselves, are under the impression the superintendent banned the book due to its discussion of topics such as police brutality and race.
Y’all surprised? I live in the Houston area. Not only did they by-pass their own process, but I ask you this: how many POC librarians are in Katy ISD? Nothing against the woke ones there, but just like this book matters to ALL races, so does the faces of those librarians.
— AwakenLibrarian (@awakenlibrarian) December 1, 2017
What bothers me about the banning of THUG by @angiecthomas is that:
Trayvon Martin was a teenager.
Michael Brown was a teenager.
TAMIR RICE was 12.
Texas is saying these high schoolers are old enough to die of police brutality but not old enough to read/learn about it???
— Akure Phéni-XMAS ???❄️ (@AkurePhenix) December 1, 2017
The ban has inspired librarians and activists across the nation to take action and spread the message of Thomas’ novel in their own way.
Just found out that #TheHateUGive by @angiecthomas has been banned in a Texas school district. We have a copy available right now in the LLC. Get your hands on some “dangerous” reading material and celebrate your right to read! https://t.co/ABbClOb6pA
— CDH Library and Learning Center (@CDHLibrary) December 1, 2017
— Angie Thomas Knows Nothing About the THUG trailer (@angiecthomas) December 3, 2017
“The Hate U Give” is a YA novel which follows the life of Starr Carter, a black teenager navigating her way through the two very distinct worlds she lives in: the poverty-stricken streets of Garden Heights and the gilded halls of her suburban prep school, Williamson Prep. Her life is irrevocably changed when she witnesses her unarmed friend being shot and killed by a police officer during a routine traffic stop. The friend’s killing quickly becomes a national headline, and a nationwide debate of the facts of the event ensues. As the sole witness to the event, Starr has to confront her own beliefs on police brutality and determine whether she is brave enough to speak up and shed light on the truth. Inspired in part by the Black Lives Matter movement, Thomas provides readers with the ability to put themselves in the shoes of the African-American communities who are subject to the racially-motivated violence of police officers everyday.
Thomas’ novel addressed key themes that needs to be discussed amongst today’s youth. THUG, the common abbreviation for the novel, is a nod to late rapper Tupac Shakur: addressing his widely-known tattoo and philosophy “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody.” This phrase is an indictment of the institutional racism which proliferates in the U.S. and is explained as such by Khalil, Starr’s friend, right before he is shot by a police officer, “What society gives us as youth, it bites them in the ass when we wild out.” This statement is incredibly relevant today and is exemplified in cities such as Baltimore where $6.8 billion has been spent on policing instead of the factors that truly impact crime such as economic development, education and mental health. In addition, Thomas reminds readers of how police violence is often directed towards their age-group (Michael Brown was 18 when he was killed; Trayvon Martin was 17; and Tamir Rice was 12). This cop versus “thug” framing device the media employs often conditions the populace to ignore the fact that the primary victims of this racialized violence are children.
As Thomas herself said, by not addressing the realities of this novel the Katy Independent School District is silencing the voices of all those children from the “Garden Heights of the world.” “The Hate U Give” is the foremost example of books we need in this world: a world where minority voices are marginalized in politics and in literature.
Source image: Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins