Monthly Archives: March 2017

The Hate U Give

Don’t be fooled by the classification – The Hate U Give is more than an YA book. In fact, when I bought it, I thought it was a regular novel. I am glad I bought it and even happier I read it. This is a book that has changed my life. In the way To Kill A Mockingbird changed my life. I am hoping that many people read this book to open a conversation about things that we do not want to admit exist or talk about.

The story is about Starr Carter. She is in high school. She lives in a rough neighborhood, but she goes to a private school that is mostly white. She attends the school with her two brothers. She has a white boyfriend, that her dad doesn’t know about. Her mother is a nurse. Her dad owns the neighborhood grocery store. He used to be a King Lord – one of the local gangs in their neighborhood. Now he’s not, after he went to prison to save the leader from a long sentence. Starr has an older half brother and younger brother. Her uncle lives in a nice neighborhood near her school. He is a cop and his wife is a surgeon.

Starr goes to a party in her ‘hood. She is there are runs into her old friend, Khalil, who she has not seen in a while. While at the party, shots ring out and Starr and Khalil leave. They are driving in Khalil’s car when he is pulled over by the police. The stop escalates and Khalil is pulled from the car. He is shot by the officer and Starr is the only witness. She is afraid to come forward publicly.

As she struggles with this issue, and with people making accusations that Khalil was a thug and a drug dealer who may have deserved to get shot, her mother tells her, “Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.” Truly words to live by.

A little later in the book, she is talking to her father. They are discussing why Khalil may have been selling drugs. Starr suggests lack of opportunity. Her father agrees and then says, “Corporate America don’t bring jobs to our communities, and they damn sure ain’t quick to hire us. Then, shit, even if you do have a high school diploma, so many of the schools in our neighborhoods don’t prepare us well enough.” That paragraph alone is cause for a long discussion about race, poverty, privilege, economics, and education. It should spark a conversation.

Later in the book, Starr and her mother are talking about one of her close friends, who she finds out is really a racist. Her mother says to her, “At an early age I learned that people make mistakes, and you have to decide if their mistakes are bigger than your love for them.” Ultimately, Starr decides that her love for her former friend is not enough to overcomes the girl’s very racist statements, that she claims is really joking.

I cannot say enough about this book. It made me feel like Starr. It made me think about all of those words that have become buzzwords in recent years – white privilege, police brutality, opportunity, prison, drugs, gangs. More than a political statement, this book is lyrical and so well-written. I found it astonishing that this is Ms. Thomas’ first novel. It is a gem. If I were an English teacher at any level, I would assign this book. It is just phenomenal and it will stay with me for a very, very long time. Like I said, this book changed my life.

 

 

 

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Aftercare Instructions

I do not think I can say enough great things about this book. I do not think I can quantify how much I loved it. Aftercare Instructions is the story of Genesis Johnson, who is a senior in high school. Her father has died of a heroin overdose – which the entire school has found about. Her mother is not recovering from her father’s death. Her sister lives with her mom’s religious parents. Her life is her best friend, Rose, and her boyfriend, Peter, whose mother us uber religious and uber judgmental.

The book opens with Genesis getting an abortion in New York City and being left there by Peter. She is struggling with everything in her life. Peter’s disappearance is worsened by the fact that he isn’t talking to her. Her ex-best friend, Vanessa, likes Peter and leads Genesis to believe that Peter left Gen for Vanessa. There is a fight. There is a suspension. There is adventure. There is drama.

What made this book so great to me was Genesis’ voice. She is strong, but vulnerable. She is tough, but has a soft heart. She misses her father, but knows she has to function for her mother’s sake. She is an old soul, with a teenager’s view of love. She is quick and witty and sarcastic. Most importantly to me, she is real. Very, very real. Bonnie Pipkin did such a fantastic job developing all of her characters in this book. Even the two dimensional characters pop off the page and come to life.

Don’t read any more of my gushing about this book. Just get it and read it. You will love it.

I won this book from Goodreads and received no other compensation for my review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

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On Tyranny – READ THIS BOOK

Timothy Snyder writes a short, accessible book that EVERYONE should read. Right now. He takes lessons from tyranny in the 20th century and tells us how to avoid it here. Which, if you do not believe we are on that road, you have not been paying attention.

I loved this book because it was full really important concepts, but was written in an very accessible way. Mr. Snyder backs up his assertions with examples – from Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, mostly. He does use some other examples. But he takes each point and tells a story or uses an example to illustrate his point.

If I were teaching political science right now, I would assign this book and it would remain in my curriculum until I stopped teaching. It’s that important. It is short – just over 100 pages, but I cannot again state how important this book is given the current political climate.

I will leave you with this reminder – well-meaning people who do nothing are as complicit as those who participate.

I received this book from Blogging for Books and received no other compensation for my review. The opinions expressed herein – while important – are mine and mine alone.

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