Halfway through her talk at the College of Charleston’s Sottile Theatre on Jan. 14, 2019, Angie Thomas informed the packed crowd attending her lecture that she needed to make a confession: As a young child, she hated reading books.
Her announcement may seem strange since Thomas is the author of the book The Hate You Give, a novel that has been on the New York Times young adult bestseller list for 97 weeks. The book was also named the College of Charleston 2018-2019 The College Reads! book.
But she told the sold-out crowd that the reason she did not like to read was because she could never find characters like herself in books.
Then, as a teenager, she discovered the music of rapper Tupac Shakur and fell in love with his lyrics. The provocative lyricism of Shakur not only prompted Thomas to hone her voice, but also empowered her to use it in storytelling.
“Writing was my way to speak up and speak out,” said Thomas. “There is power in making politics personal.”
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, The Hate You Give tells the story of 16-year-old Starr Carter, who is living in two different worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The balance between these worlds suddenly changes when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer.
College of Charleston freshman Faith Emetu is a big fan of the book. She admits that she often experiences the difficult culture shifts that the character Starr faces in the novel.
“It was refreshing to find a book that explains how important community is and how a young black girl faces the different adversities that are common today,” said Emetu.
Freshman Chris DuRant praised Thomas as an amazing author.
“It was very well written,” said DuRant. “I was amazed at how realistic the dialogue felt.”
Thomas’ new novel On the Come Up is scheduled for release in February.
Featured image: Angie Thomas speaks to a sold-out audience in the College of Charleston’s Sottile Theatre.