Last in our series of black women who are changing the world is Angie Thomas, the New York Times bestselling author of The Hate U Give. Also a National Book Award winner, the debut release in the Young Adult fiction genre lead to massive levels of anticipation for the author’s follow-up novel.
What’s her story?
Photo Credit: Imani Khayyam for The Observer
Angie, a Missipi native who lives in the southern state to this day, was a victim of bullying in high school. It got bad enough that her mental health was affected, leading to her parents' decision to homeschool her. At this time, Thomas’ mother lost her job, and her family lived in what she refers to as crisis mode. Revisiting this time in her life, a time she remembers as the most traumatic, was a part of the creative process for beginning to write The Hate U Give. Thomas recounts this story and process in an interview with Tim Lewis of The Guardian. She also speaks of books as a tool for resistance.
It is noted that Thomas was a teen rapper and that she received a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree. Her pursuit of higher education and passion for rap music are evidently intertwined in her novels. Adapting rapper 2Pac’s “THUG LIFE”, a theory about “how the hate you give f***s everyone” for the title of her debut novel, Thomas explores trauma in the formative years; the loss of friends to cops as well as the community, and the process of grappling with that.
Another notable adaptation (used this time for the dialogue in the book) is “I Can’t Breathe”, the last words of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man murdered by the police as a result of an arrest for selling loose cigarettes, and later a call during protests against frequent, similar murders.
Conscious and proud of her infusion of hip hop culture into the worlds of her characters, Thomas has compared the main characters of her novels to 2Pac and Biggie; a reflection of communal versus personal motivation.
On the Come Up is the title of Thomas’ second novel. The book centers an aspiring female rapper. Is it an allusion to her own story? It’ll likely be explored. Read the book now to be a part of the conversation, and maybe gift a copy to a young adult or literary child in your life.