Many of the books I discussed this week were published a while ago, with Fahrenheit 451 being published in 1953, The Color Purple was published in 1982, and the most recently published book discussed, Persepolis, in 2000.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was published more recently, having come out in 2017, and was one of the top challenged books in 2017 (#8 out of the top 10) and 2018 (it was #4 out of the top 11). It’s a YA novel which follows Starr Carter after she witnesses a police officer shooting and killing her friend, Khalid, during a traffic stop, even though he was unarmed. It was based on a short story Angie Thomas wrote during college after the shooting of Oscar Grant.
I read it pretty soon after it came out, and it was one of those books I just couldn’t put down (I’m pretty sure I read it in one day… maybe two days). This is a great book to start a discussion (especially among high school students) about the issues of police brutality against Black people. Angie Thomas takes (what can be unfortunately) a polarizing topic and shows different ways issues such as racism and bias manifest in different aspects of life, even beyond the discussion of police brutality.
There are a couple well known cases of The Hate U Give being banned in states such as Texas and North Carolina. As with my previous Banned Book Week posts, I’ll include a detailed timeline below with the specific incidents:
|Year||Reason for Ban/Challenge|
|2017||In Katy, TX, after a parent complaint during a school board meeting, the superintendent of Katy Texas Independent School District had the book removed from all school libraries in the district. This led to an uproar in the media, as well as a student in the district distributing a petition which collected over 3,700 signatures against the removal. The superintendent claimed they had the right to remove the book due to it being “pervasively vulgar”. A few months after the incident, the book returned to the school library shelves, but could only be checked out with parental consent.|
|2018||Challenged at a Springfield, MO middle school, which started out with issues concerning permission slips sent out to the students parents before reading the book. The complaint cited a lack of specificity in the permission slips, as well as issues with language and sexual encounters. The school pulled the book for review, sent out revised permission slips, and received further complaints, causing the book to be pulled once again. As of right now, its final status of whether it’s banned or not is unknown. |
In South Carolina, the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police tried to get the book removed from Wando High School’s optional reading assignments for incoming freshmen, as well as the book All American Boys by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds (Which is also a really good book, and I recommend checking out). The FOP cited the books as “almost an indoctrination of distrust of police and we’ve got to put a stop to that.” After a reconsideration process, the school decided to keep both books on their list.
Note: These are only the incidents which were documented and had media coverage, as it’s important to remember a lot of cases concerning books being banned/challenged aren’t always reported to the American Library Association, or receive media coverage.
After George Floyd’s murder, there were many recommendations about books to read and movies/documentaries to watch, with The Hate U Give being a fairly popular recommendation. It’s still relevant today, and also shows the aftermath of those who witness these instances of police brutality. This isn’t a topic that is necessarily discussed as much as it should, but is explored in novels such as The Hate U Give as well as All American Boys. What’s even more important is the main target audience for these books are teenagers and, just like with all the other books I discussed this week, it’s a great book to start a conversation about current issues in the United States.
If there’s one thing I want to iterate through Banned Books Week, it’s that the best way to combat ignorance is to stop avoiding the discussion of hard topics in the classroom, whether it’s censorship, Black American history, the history of the Middle East, or police brutality. These books are meant to spark conversation, and make us think about how we’ve operated in this world up until now, and how we will continue to do so afterwards. Are there certain behaviors or beliefs we should re-revaluate? Are there certain ideas we need to be more outspoken about?
Art and entertainment can be for pleasure, but it can also reshape the way we perceive the world. Although change can be seen as a scary and dangerous thing, it’s also necessary to improve ourselves and the world around us.
For more information on the banning/challenging of The Hate U Give, check out these websites:
SUPPORT COMMUNITY ADVOCACY TO REVERSE BAN ON THE HATE U GIVE (This is specifically about Katy, Texas, from the National Coalition Against Censorship)
Want to buy your own copy of The Hate U Give? Then follow the links below from Bookshop.org! If you make a purchase through these links, I’ll earn a commission as well!
Buy The Hate U Give (regular edition)
Buy The Hate U Give (collector’s edition)
If interested, you can donate to the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom
You can also sign the petition for the Literature Locked Up campaign: Tell Congress: Stop the largest book ban in America
While you’re already here, why not check these links out?
Updated carrd of global issues : https://allcards.carrd.co/