After huge success from her debut novel with ‘The Hate U Give’, Angie Thomas finds herself in surreal times. The novel turned film hit theaters this past September 2018. The Hate U Give follows the life of a sixteen year old African american girl named Starr Carter. Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressure from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right.
The movie stars Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Algee Smith, Anthony Mackie and Common. Directed by Geroge Tillman Jr. who also directed the 2009 film, Notorious. Interesting enough, Anthony Mackie who played Tupac in the movie Notorious, plays King in The hate U Give.
Tupac’s influence in The hate U Give is quite evident. As we all know to well, Tupac’s infamous Thug Life tattoo was more than just a catchphrase. Thug Life was a movement and a way of life. Tupac came up with an an acronym for the word THUG – “The Hate U Gave Little Infants Fs Everyone“. More about Tupac’s Thug Life movement
We have had the pleasure of speaking to Angie in an O4L Online exclusive interview. We talk to her about how she came up with the original concept for her novel, her background, what she thought about the movie, Tupac’s influence on the novel and in her life and much more!
First off Angie, congratulations on the success of ‘The Hate U Give’, both in book form and on the big screen. You published ‘The Hate U Give’, which was your debut novel in February 2017. Your novel debuted at the top of The New York Times young adult best-seller list and since then you have seen your idea go from page to movie screen. What has the last year and a half been like for you?
Absolutely surreal. I’m honored to know that so many people have connected with this story in some way. The best part for me is talking to the teens and kids who love the book. So many have told me it’s the first time they’ve read a book from beginning to end and that it’s the first time they read a story that showed them themselves. Nothing tops that.
Can you tell us the process of how you came up with the concept for your novel and how you developed the story?
I first got the idea to write the book when I was in college. I was a lot like my main character Starr-living in an impoverished neighborhood while attending a mostly white, upper class, private school. While I was at school, I thought I had to be a different person and I sometimes found myself silent when classmates made racist comments. But when the Oscar Grant case happened in Oakland, I was so angry and frustrated over his death that I decided to write a short story for my senior project about a boy named Khalil who was a lot like Oscar and a girl named Starr who lived in 2 different worlds like I did.
That short story later became The Hate U Give the novel – after seeing so many young men and women lose their lives unjustly like Oscar, I felt compelled to write the story for myself and for the young people in my community who just wanted to be seen and heard and understood.
The Hate U Give deals with a lot of real life issues facing young black youth today. Your novel goes hand in hand with the Black Lives Matter movement, shedding light on the very real issue of systemic racism, police brutality and injustice of black people. What is your view of what is going on in today’s world and how The Hate U Give helps to tackle some of the issues?
The Hate U Give goes back to what the literal meaning of Thug Life was for ‘Pac – the hate that’s been given to us via society is screwing us all. Since black people were first brought here on ships, America has always painted us in a negative light – we’re always seen as predators, as threats. That mindset has infected our justice system and has led to the murders we see today and has even our political leaders placing little value on our lives. As a writer, I feel it’s my job to make people uncomfortable by revealing these truths.
It was refreshing to see the protagonist was a female, showing that young black females suffer too. Have you had feedback from young girls who can relate to Starr?
For me, that’s the best part – when young black girls thank me for showing them themselves through Starr. The story has empowered them, and I will totally be content with that being my legacy.
Just like the work of Tupac, your work has been cited by a few individuals who, after reading just a few pages of The Hate U Give, were upset with the authenticity of the content, be it on the subject of violence, drug use or language. This ended up with your book being banned in the district of Katy, Texas. Why do you think it’s important for young readers to read about reality and political issues and talk about the positive affects of doing so?
One thing I always loved about ‘Pac was that he was authentic. He never held back, he never sugar coated things, he always kept it real, even when addressing young people. As a writer, that’s what I want to do. Kids know when you aren’t being real with you and they lose respect for you when you aren’t real. These are issues so many of them face every single day, so why not address it?
O4L Online: Exactly what Tupac was getting at, ‘Support the real’. The Hate U Give has been made into a movie, which has been released worldwide. How does it feel to know that your novel, your creation, is now in cinemas across the globe?
It’s amazing. I’m so glad that the movie has now allowed this story to reach an even wider audience.
O4L Online: Were you involved in the movie at all and what did you think of the performances of the characters?
I was. The director, George Tillman Jr., kept me involved from beginning to end. It was a collaboration. I think every single actor involved did a phenomenal job. They all gave it 1000% and it shows.
The title The Hate U Give is the acronym that Tupac Shakur came up with and tattooed across his stomach. ‘Pac describes The Hate U Give Little Infants F’s Everybody as the underprivileged youth who were going through bad situations, forced upon them by society and the government. It’s really nice to see that you incorporated Tupac’s philosophy into your novel. What do you think Tupac would be doing if he was still around? Do you think he would have eventually ran for President of the United States?
‘Pac would be making noise if he was still alive – he would not be silent. I can’t say he would run for president because unfortunately his criminal record wouldn’t have allowed for that, but I absolutely believe he would be leading his own movement. He would be speaking out against police brutality, mass incarceration, poverty, and our current political climate. I think he probably would’ve moved away from music, too – he was all about letting “the lil homies” get their shine, and would guide a new generation of real emcees.
We have a series called ‘Heart Of An Outlaw’ where we explore the positive impact that Tupac had on society. The media, as we all know didn’t portray him in such ways that those close to him knew. Tupac had many sides to him and had positive impact on the lives of many. What impact has Tupac had on you and in turn your novel?
Tupac is my biggest literary influence. That always trips people up because in their mind, he wasn’t a literary figure, but he was. Through his songwriting, he could make you think, laugh, cry, get angry, get inspired, and then some. As an author, that’s exactly what I want my books to do, and I can only hope that they speak to the next generation the way that his music spoke to me.
If you were to pick your top 5 songs by Tupac what would they be and why?
Keep Ya Head Up. I first heard this song when I was about 7 or 8 years old, and it was the first time it felt like someone spoke to me through their art.
I Wonder if Heaven Got A Ghetto – This song woke me up as a kid. Plus so much of what he says is relevant to today. But that’s true for all Pac songs honestly.
Me Against the World – Pac’s last verse in that song has become my motivation throughout all the chaos.
Letter 2 My Unborn (OG version) – Pac’s outro on that verse brings me to tears every time I hear it.
Holler if Ya Hear Me – I listened to this one a lot while writing The Hate U Give. One of his most powerful songs and so underrated.
You have your second novel in the pipeline, titled On the Come Up, about a sixteen year old rapper from the hood trying to make it big. Can you share with us more about the story and when can we expect to see it hit bookshelves? Also what are your future plans?
On the Come Up is another ‘Pac inspired story. So much of Bri’s spirit is similar to his, and like ‘Pac, people make assumptions about her and paint negative images about her without knowing her. She makes a song that goes viral for all the wrong reasons and finds herself being portrayed by the media as “ghetto” and “ratchet” and “street” for simply speaking her truths. This book is my take on what it means to be young and black in America when freedom of speech isn’t necessarily free for us, and it’s also my ode to hip hop. As far as my future plans, more books for young people and hopefully more films.
O4L Online: Have you got a message for your fans?
Like Maverick says in The Hate U Give the movie – Don’t ever let nobody make you be quiet. They want us to be silent and complacent. But we can’t afford to be.
Angie, thank you so much for taking time out and talking with O4LOnline. Thank you again for creating such a great and powerful story. Enjoy your success. We wish you all the best with the upcoming novel.