A Life in Books: Angie Thomas

February, 2017
Angie Thomas
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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is balancing her life between the impoverished neighborhood where she lives and the fancy prep school she attends when she sees a police officer shoot and kill her unarmed friend. As the only person to witness the death, she finds herself struggling with the consequences of what to say—and what not to say—when she's called into court to testify.

Angie Thomas's debut novel, The Hate U Give, was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2009 shooting death of Oscar Grant in Oakland, California (which the movie Fruitvale Station was based on). The title of the book comes from the late rapper Tupac Shakur's tattoo T.H.U.G.

The Hate U Give is garnering both a significant amount of praise and buzz. It sparked a bidding war among 13 publishing houses, and a film version is already in the works with The Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg (who played Rue) signed on to star.

Thomas, who lives in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, started writing her first book as a senior at Belhaven University. She shares her inspiration for The Hate U Give, her recommendations for books that address racism, and the novel that turned her into a reader.


The Hate U Give was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and focuses on the police shooting of an unarmed black man, racism, and black identity. What's a book that tackles discrimination, racism, or inequality that you've loved or found inspiring?

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It's hard to keep this response to just one book! Two recent books come to mind—How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon and All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Both books deal with issues of racism and inequality. They're fantastically written and should be required reads.


Your novel is also a powerful portrait of family and relationships. Which is your favorite book family, and why?

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
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One of my favorite book families comes from one of my favorite books of all time—the Logan family in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Throughout the novel, the family faces struggles, but they always face them as a unit. That was a huge inspiration for me as I wrote Starr's family in The Hate U Give. I kind of wanted them to be a contemporary version of the Logans.





Starr's life is split between her home life and her privileged school. What's a favorite book featuring a character with a double life or a conflicted identity?

Fake ID
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Fake ID by Lamar Giles. It's a YA thriller and probably one of my favorite YA books in recent years. The main character is in the Witness Protection Program along with his family. As a unit, they have struggles that come with having multiple identities. As individuals, they have struggles, too. You don't have to be in the Witness Protection Program to empathize with them and the difficulty of trying to figure out who you are.



Name the book that hooked you on reading.

Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry
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I've already mentioned it, but Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. I still remember when I first read it. I was a black girl living in Mississippi, and it was the first time I read a book about a black girl living in Mississippi. There is nothing quite like the moment you finally see yourself in a book. After that, I constantly looked for books that were mirrors because they helped me make sense of things in my own life.




What's an underrated YA novel you think everyone should read?

This Side of Home
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This Side of Home by Renée Watson. We hear about gentrification a lot lately from a political standpoint. This book makes it extremely personal.




Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Derese (new)

Derese Shackleford-France All of her book recommendations are spot on! I agree with each title! YA Lit teacher


message 2: by Felisha (new)

Felisha OMG!!! I loved Mildred Taylor's "Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry" as a child!!!! I MUST read your book just because you mentioned one of my all time favorite books...coming from small town Eastern Arkansas I can totally relate to seeing a "mirror" and searching for other mirror books!!! Congrats on the Success!


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