Angie Thomas’s debut novel The Hate U Give has received widespread critical acclaim and sits (comfortably, for thirty-eight weeks) at the number one spot on the New York Times best seller list for young adult based-sellers. It also made the long-list for the National Book Award and won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for fiction. It’s even been optioned for a film adaptation. And last but certainly not least, it’s been banned from the Katy Independent School District, the public school system in the largest suburb of my hometown, Houston, Texas.
The novel, often shortened to THUG, tells the story of Starr Carter, a black teenager traversing two distinct worlds: the impoverished neighborhood she lives in and the affluent halls of the suburban prep school she attends in the “good part of town”. Then, a white police officer shoots and kills her best friend Khalil and our protagonist, Starr, is the only eyewitness. The incident becomes a national headline and the media of the book acts pretty much exactly like you’d expect: some blame the victim, others see it as a call to arms.
Image via Amazon
Clearly inspired by real-life events surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, the book unabashedly tackles issues of racism and police brutality.
I’ve always had lingering disdain for Katy. One of many suburbs that surrounds Houston, Katy thinks it’s all that when it is really, really not. It undeniably blows, and so does this decision to ban the book. If I had to condense my feelings about this into three words, they would be “straight up bullshit.”
Angie Tomas shared the news of THUG‘s ban on Twitter:
I’m saddened to hear that a school district in Texas banned #TheHateUGive, but I’m also empowered – you’re basically telling the kids of the Garden Heights of the world that their stories shouldn’t be told. Well, I’m going to tell them even louder. Thanks for igniting the fire.
— Angie Thomas Knows Nothing About the THUG trailer (@angiecthomas) December 1, 2017
Support for the book and the author was immediate and from all over, including teachers from the district that banned the book, who pledged to read and recommend the novel.
Twitter user Abby Berner tweeted a call to action urging people to call the district office, claiming Superintendent Lance Hindt banned the book without conducting the normal review process, doing so in response to complaints from parents about the book’s “inappropriate language.”
Gif Via Tenor Keyboard
The book does include profanity, ranging from the typical four lettered shits and fucks that people don’t blink an eye at to the N word, which is the scapegoat the district is using to ban the book. But did they also ban To Kill a Mockingbird or any of the major Mark Twain books? I’d bet good money that they didn’t.
Thomas acknowledges the use of this language and empathizes with why Katy ISD might take issue with it, but she implored the educators to look past the language and focus on the message. Realistically, we all know what’s going on. Scrolling through related tweets suggests that the issue lies within thematically uncomfortable material AKA racism and police violence.
Neither Superintendent Hindt or the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association has publicly commented on the matter, but Thomas shows no signs of discouragement. “I’m not bothered,” she said.
I am. Bothered and disappointed.
Featured Image Via Instagram user @storiesforcoffee.