Raise Your Voice is a special annual month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader whose purpose is to celebrate diversity and inclusivity in literature, with a particular emphasis on #OwnVoices stories. In it, authors recommend books with sensitive, positive and accurate representation that will help to create a resource of diverse books that marginalized readers can turn to when they need them most. Your voice matters. Raise it! For a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates, click here.
About Angie Thomas
Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University but can still rap if needed. Her debut Young Adult novel, The Hate U Give, will be published by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins on February 28, 2017.
All right, confession:
When I was first approached to do this post, I panicked.
Because I could not think of a diverse book that truly “changed my life” as a child.
Don’t get me wrong – there were diverse books and authors that I enjoyed. I still remember reading Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry and being excited because the main character, Cassie Logan, was a black girl in Mississippi, and I was a black girl in Mississippi. But it was historical. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, because it helped me see where my folks had been and what I could overcome…but I wanted more options. Sometimes, my only other options were the “sassy black sidekicks” who were tossed into narratives just to add a speck of pepper to the salt shaker. That was even worse — the equivalent of telling me that I could only be a minor role in someone else’s story; the black girl who provided the wisdom or comedy to the protagonist who had all of the fun.
Why couldn’t black girls go on their own adventures? Why couldn’t they be the heroes? Why couldn’t they solve puzzles and mysteries? Why couldn’t they be protagonists in fantastic worlds?
You see, I grew up in a neighborhood that I desperately needed to escape sometimes, and books allowed me to do that when my family’s budget didn’t. I’m forever grateful that I became a bookworm, because it gave me the chance to see that there was more to the world than just my piece of it. But there’s something about seeing yourself in those other worlds that can change your life.
And then, I met Storm.
Yes, the superhero. Ororo Munroe: member of the X-Men, weather manipulator, the one Halle Berry portrayed in the films.
Now, you may be thinking — “How in the world did you see yourself in a superhero who could control the weather?” But that’s the thing — take away the “super” and Storm was a hero. Knowing that a black person could even be a hero and not a villain in a society that so often said otherwise was incredible. And a black girl as a superhero? Life changing. Storm went on adventures, she overcame ridiculous odds, and she saved the day, melanin in her skin and all. She was #BlackGirlMagic before the hash tag was created.
And she gave me hope. I knew that if Storm could survive half the stuff she did, I could survive hearing gunshots at night and all the other ills that came with my neighborhood. I could be a hero, even without the superpowers.
So while I probably sinned here by discussing a comic book character in a feature that’s supposed to be about book recommendations, I hope it shows just how much we truly need diverse books. When kids see themselves in characters, they don’t just see what they are but what they can be. It’s our job to give them as many options as possible. The Storms are just as important as the Cassie Logans.
Title The Hate U Give
Author Angie Thomas
Pages 464 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
To Be Published February 28th, 2017 by Balzer + Bray
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters ● The Book Depository
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas’s searing debut about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty. Soon to be a major motion picture from Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does — or does not — say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.