The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas was born in Jackson, Mississippi. She began writing The Hate U Give as a senior project while studying creative writing at Belhaven University, a predominantly white college in her hometown. Thomas has stated that her work initially focused on fantasy, but, following the encouragement of a professor, she decided to draw more heavily from her experience as a black woman in the southern United States. She also decided to focus specifically on a female protagonist in her debut novel, feeling that black girls’ experiences were too often overlooked by mainstream media and activism. In 2016, the as-of-yet unpublished Thomas won an inaugural grant from the nonprofit We Need Diverse books. Upon publication in 2017, The Hate U Give became an immediate bestseller and won numerous accolades, including the Coretta Scott King Award. Thomas is a lover of hip hop briefly performed as a rapper as a teen. She has stated that she is deeply influenced by the work of Tupac Shakur, whose definition of the phrase “Thug Life” grants the novel its title.
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Historical Context of The Hate U Give

Thomas’s novel invokes the language of the modern protest movement Black Lives Matter, which grew in response to real-world incidents of police brutality. Thomas has stated that she was specifically inspired by Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man whose 2009 killing at the hands of a white police officer serves as the plot of the film Fruitvale Station. In Thomas’s novel, Starr says that she “can’t breathe” following Khalil’s shooting, directly invoking the death of Eric Garner; Garner was an unarmed black man killed after being put in a chokehold by a police officer, and his last words, “I can’t breathe”, subsequently became a rallying cry in protests across the country. The fact that officials “leave Khalil’s body in the street like it’s an exhibit” also echoes the treatment of Michael Brown, a black teen shot and killed by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014; Brown’s body was infamously left in the street for four hours by authorities. The final page of The Hate U Give includes a list of black individuals whose deaths at the hands of the police echo Khalil’s, such as Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd, Tamir Rice, and Philando Castile. These names, among many others, continue to spur protests against racial injustice throughout the United States. Thomas’s novel also draws upon the historical legacy of the Civil Rights movement. On her blog Starr posts a photograph of Emmett Till, the fourteen-year-old black child lynched in 1955 after allegedly whistling at a white woman. Maverick makes his children memorize teachings from the Black Panthers, a political party founded in the 1960s to defend minority communities from police violence, and he has a photograph in his store of party co-founder Huey Newton.

Other Books Related to The Hate U Give

Thomas’s novel is one of many recent works inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. Jay Coles’ Tyler Johnson Was Here, Kekla Magoon’s How It Went Down, and Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds’ All American Boys are similarly geared toward young adult readers and tackle issues of racism and police violence against black communities. Ta Nahisi Coates’ bestselling nonfiction work Between the World and Me focuses on the realities of being a young black man in America, while journalist and professor Marc Lamont Hill explores the historical context of state-sanctioned violence in Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond. Thomas’ novel repeatedly also references the words of “Brother Malcom”—i.e. activist Malcom X, whose The Autobiography of Malcolm X is considered a pivotal work of the Civil Rights Movement. The Hate U Give also touches on the theme of double consciousness, a concept put forth by scholar W. E. B. Du Bois in The Soul of Black Folk, and which describes the sensation felt by black individuals upon seeing themselves through the lens of a racist society. Finally, The Hate U Give makes repeated references to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter fantasy series; not only are Starr, Khalil, Natasha, and Seven fans of the books, but Maverick also compares the Hogwarts houses to gangs.
Key Facts about The Hate U Give
  • Full Title: The Hate U Give
  • When Written: 2017
  • Where Written: Jackson, Mississippi, U.S.
  • When Published: February 28, 2017
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Young Adult Fiction
  • Setting: The lower-class, predominantly black neighborhood of Garden Heights and the upper-crust world of Williamson Prep.
  • Climax: Starr and her neighbors embrace the power of their voices to create change; Starr defends Khalil’s life at the protests following the indictment verdict, while Garden Heights residents tell police that King set fire to Maverick’s store.
  • Antagonist: One-Fifteen, King
  • Point of View: First person

Extra Credit for The Hate U Give

Personal Experience. Like the protagonist of her novel, Angie Thomas witnessed a shootout as a child in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi.

Historical Connections. Thomas grew up close to civil rights activist Medgar Evers’ home, and says her mother heard the gunshot that killed him.