The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas
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In The Hate U Give, how does Thomas use hip-hop as a major theme?

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The Hate U Give is the 2017 debut novel of author Angie Thomas and centers on a black teenage girl, Starr Carter, from a poor ghetto neighborhood who encounters racism and discrimination while attending a primarily white private school in a wealthier part of the city.

Throughout the story, Thomas...

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The Hate U Give is the 2017 debut novel of author Angie Thomas and centers on a black teenage girl, Starr Carter, from a poor ghetto neighborhood who encounters racism and discrimination while attending a primarily white private school in a wealthier part of the city.

Throughout the story, Thomas makes references to specific hip-hop songs that are, thanks to the modern setting of the story and recent publishing of the book, easily accessible to the young adult audience it was written for. She uses hip-hop as a reflection of both the black experience in America and how that experience is perceived by the outside world. In essence, she uses hip-hop as a symbol of both struggle and hope.

Specific tracks are referenced throughout the book and are used as a motif for the emotional journeys of the characters. They symbolize the feelings of both the black community at large (such as her use of NWA's "F*@# Tha Police" during a riot after officer Brian Cruise is acquitted of murder by a grand jury) and the more intimate internal feelings of individuals (such as her use of Kendrick Lamar's "Alright" in comforting Starr after her childhood friend is killed by Cruise).

Hip-hop stars and their messaging, not just specific music, were highly influential and run through the veins of the story. Most notably was the influence of Tupac Shakur's phrase "THUG LIFE," the first four letters of which stand for "The Hate U Give." Thomas said she felt his phrasing was an ideal title because it was representative of black society's perceived struggle with an oppressive and disdainful law enforcement community. The same sentiment that fuels her book is also part and parcel to the messaging that drives many hip-hop tracks, making them perfect thematic counterparts.

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