They say most of us have at least one book in us. So imagine your debut novel being the subject of a massive bidding war? Then imagine said book being optioned for a movie, and that movie recently came into fruition starring Hollywood’s stalwarts and its brightest young stars including Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Issa Rae and Anthony Mackie. This exact scenario has been Angie Thomas’ existence for the last few years. Angie is the exciting author who penned the scintillating young adult read The Hate U Give, a coming of age narrative which weaves The Black Lives Matter movement into its narrative. The book is released in an adult edition today, and if you’ve yet to read it, you must add it to your summer reading list pronto. We revisit our talk with the bright young author.
Hi Angie so nice to meet you. Was becoming a published author always a dream of yours?
Well it’s funny because I never thought that I could actually be one. I say this because I rarely saw authors who looked like me when I was growing up. When I was in school we’d have doctors and lawyers coming in to give talks, but never authors. All the great black authors that we know, you’d see them from afar, but when I finally got to meet people who write books for a living it seemed more doable. In my opinion that reinforces why representation is so important. Once you see something as achievable, you see yourself doing it as well.
What inspired the story of the The Hate U Give?
I actually started writing it when I was a senior in college around 2010/11. It was after Oscar Grant was killed by police in Oakland, California. At the time, I was attending a mostly-white upper class school and every day I went home to “the hood”. I was hearing two very different conversations about Oscar and his death, and it sparked fury, frustration, sadness and anger in me when I would hear my peers at school speaking as if he deserved it. So, the only thing I knew how to do was write, so I wrote a short story back then. It was actually quite draining emotionally so I put it aside. But then Trayvon Martin happened. Tamir Rice, Mike Brown, Sandra Bland – and I felt those same emotions every time: the anger, the frustration, the fear. So I had to write. It was the only way I knew how to be an activist at that time. Within a year I had a literary agent. We’re only now seeing the call for diversity in teen lit. But back then it was almost as if diversity was on the back burner.
You have a similar background to your main protagonist, Starr, how much of her character is based on you?
There are some small similarities and bigger things too. For instance, Starr went to a mostly-white school, and so did I in college. I’d leave home in my car listening to Tupac and when I was closer to my school I’d turn it on to the Jonas Brothers. It was definitely in an attempt to assimilate. So, I’d say that a lot of Starr does come from me, but also from the girls I’ve seen growing up. A lot of us feel as if we have to be two different people operating in two different spaces. But a lot of young black girls are finding their voice, and finding their activism. I wanted Starr to represent that transformation.
Trailer for The Hate U Give movie
The book has quite strong language, how important was it for you to use authentic dialogue despite the book being aimed at the YA market?
I wanted it to be authentic, but I didn’t want to go overboard with it. I wanted to reflect what I hear every day in my community, but I also knew I had to hold back somewhat because of my audience. I believe that the more authentic we can be with our words, the more impact it will make. I didn’t want to drop an F bomb every single sentence, but I knew there would be a time when an F bomb would be necessary.
Did you ever think the book would be optioned for a film, and how involved will you be in the process?
I’ve always wanted to be a screenwriter but I don’t like writing scripts, so I try to write books while playing out a movie version in my head to give it a cinematic feel. My motto has always been, you never know, in regards to whether my book could be turned into a film. So when my literary agent told me that he knew a film agent that would love my book, I tried not to get my hopes up too much but thought it would be amazing and immediately started thinking about my dream cast. So the fact that not only was it picked up to be made into a film but the actress that was pictured as Starr (Amandla Stenberg) was chosen made me believe that I was onto something. The whole journey has been amazing; a dream come true.
The Hate U Give is released today as an adult edition which features stunning new jacket cover artwork. To be in with a chance of winning a copy of the paperback book, please send an email to [email protected] under the subject header: The Hate U Give comp. The closing date is 24th August at 5pm. A winner will be chosen at random and notified via email.