Add this to your reading list, stat
Add this to your reading list, stat.
Last June, a university student called Anglea Thomas got in touch with a literary agent via Twitter to ask whether they would consider a YA novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Less than a year later Thomas’ literary debut, The Hate U Give had sparked a frantic bidding auction involving 13 publishing houses.
Thomas’ question has been answered in the best possible way. In short, publishers are desperate to back this work of fiction, tipped to be an important, authentic and accessible account of the African-American community’s experience of violence and racial inequality in the US.
The publishing company that eventually won the novel was Balzer and Bray (an imprint of HaperCollins). The purchase figure has not been revealed but rumour has it, it’s a six-figure deal.
Thomas’ reaction? “I knew it was timely, but it’s such a sensitive topic,” Thomas told Publishers Weekly during a telephone interview.
The novel is not autobiographical. However, Thomas has drawn from personal experience – writing about characters and neighbourhoods she is familiar with. She explained that her intention was to reveal the intricacies, both good and bad, of the impoverished neighbourhoods that often make headlines for the most devestating reasons.
16-year-old Starr is the central character of The Hate U Give. She’s grown up in a slum but attends a prestigious prep school. Her whole world is disrupted when she witnesses a police officer shoot her best friend, who it transpires, was unarmed. Increasingly, Starr finds it difficult to navigate her two very different worlds of home and school and grapples with telling her account of the incident honestly, while trying to protect herself from harm.
At the time that Thomas came up with the story she was a student on Belhaven University’s creative writing program. The Hate U Give was initially a short story that she later fleshed out.
The book’s title was inspired by the definition of the acronym T.H.U.G. that the late musician Tupac Shakur had tattooed on his body. Thomas told Publishers Weekly that Shakur’s definition of “Thug Life” is in line with the message Thomas’ is trying to convey in her writing: “What society feeds into youth comes back later and kicks society in the butt… These kids who are being blamed for their own deaths are still kids.”