From book to film, important “The Hate U Give” takes on police brutality in America

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It sold 100,000 copies in its first month of publication. It’s a New York Times Best Seller. And we love it here in the Twin Cities as well: It was the selection for June’s Books & Bars, and it’s been on SubText Bookstore‘s “Favorites” shelf since it was first published in February of 2017.

And it’s helping redefine the role of Young Adult (YA) literature in a time when we need it most.

The Hate U Give

YA has long gotten a bad rap from those more highbrow literaries – it can’t be serious if it’s written for teenagers, right? But Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give isn’t just YA, and it isn’t just about kids. To say that the book transcends its genre is perhaps accurate, but still feels somehow condescending – it’s simply an important read, and now more than ever.

The book, with a title inspired by Tupac’s THUG LIFE backronym: “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody,” offers a devastating reality check about the continuing violence perpetrated by police officers against black people in America.

Serious, indeed.

From book to film, important "The Hate U Give" takes on police brutality in America

And now it’s going to be a movie. You can watch the trailer, released yesterday during the BET Awards, above.

Inspired by real-life events from the past few years (and, certainly, for much longer than that), the story centers around the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer in the predominantly black neighborhood of Garden Heights.

No spoilers: The Hate U Give focuses on high school student Starr Carter, who, while living in Garden Heights, attends high school in a conversely quite affluent white neighborhood. This duality in her day-to-day life comes to head after her childhood friend Khalil is shot and killed by a cop after a party. And while her unique situation prepares her for her action after the murder, it also offers unique challenges in discovery for her in both more inward-looking growth, and the greater world around her.

The film is due out October 19. It stars Amandla Stenberg as Carter, as well as Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Common, and Anthony Mackie in supporting roles, and is directed by George Tillman, Jr.

As we see protest taking a more visual form in Hollywood (Get Out was one of the biggest hits of 2017, and Sorry To Bother You and BlacKkKlansmen are also due out this year) and in music (Childish Gambino’s “This is America” has arguably reignited the protest song with the type of impact we haven’t seen since the 1960’s), as well as in sports and on other national platforms, perhaps it was only a matter of time before the YA genre of writing took on the issue in a big way as well: These are the teens who are going to be voting in the next election, who are becoming involved in policy and civic measure in unprecedented ways, and who, ultimately, are going to inherit this country, warts and all.

These are the teens who, one way or another, are going to enact the type of change that has been so elusive in America for so long. The Hate U Give certainly isn’t the culmination of this idea or struggle: It’s only the beginning.

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