it is not lost on me that I am writing this on June 19; Juneteenth
For anyone involved in the online book community, or regular reader you would be familiar with the book, The Hate U Give. Published in 2017, I remember it being all the range. It was everywhere on bookstagram. I’m sure it was on booktube just as frequently but I had given up on booktube by then. I had no interest in reading it. For the most part, I have no interest in reading black stories. yes, i am a black woman who is admitting to not reading black stories. If you are still reading this, the reasoning is pretty simple – I know how they start and how they end. Fiction is worse because… any black stereotype you can think of, blacks seems to be portrayed that way. Honestly, I cannot support that.
When I say I know how the stories start and end…. my father grew up in the South during the 60s and 70s. When I say the South, I am not talking about South Carolina. I am talking the panhandle of Florida, and Alabama. My mother, in the inner blocks of NYC. i know the stories.
When The Hate U Give was to made into a movie it was everywhere again. My understanding some popular booktubers were extras in the film, and I believe there was some drama over that as well.
So when it became a movie I thought I would try listening to the audiobook. I really wanted to give it an earnest try. Obviously I must’ve really missed something with this hyped book. So I borrowed the audiobook from the library and I remember very clearly crying in the middle of the grocery store while listening to it. I could not listen to anymore. Shame on me, I gave up on it – DNF’ed it and never really thought about it again.
Today, June 19th I am off from work. I did some of the things I needed to do around the house and was just aimlessly sitting around watching television when I noticed The Hate U Give (along with Selma and Just Mercy) were free on-demand this weekend. I figured, why not and pressed play.
In hindsight I should have continued to listen. It was a hard story and unlike what I tell my kids about sticking with things that are hard, I took the easy way out and I quit. I thought I knew the story. A young innocent black man killed by a white cop. It’s a tale as old as time. I just wasn’t interested in it even though it hit me hard enough to have me crying in a grocery store. For those that do not personally know me, I am not a crier. The times I cry are out of frustration – usually not much else.
Yes, it is a story about an innocent black kid who is killed at the hands of a scared white cop. But it is so much more than that. Starr, the 16-year old main black character lives in two worlds. She lives in the black neighborhood with her family but goes to a white prep school on the other side of town. Starr has a white boyfriend that she cannot bring home to her family. She has two sides of herself. The side of herself that goes to school and refuses to be seen as ghetto. And then there is the side of her at home where she can just be completely herself. Her black friends rag on her about her white friends, and her white friends don’t seem to acknowledge the black side of Starr. They simply don’t see her as black because Starr is not like the black people they see on television. That idea, that concept, struck me in the heart. I felt Starr. I know what it is like to live in two worlds. Except I don’t even feel comfortable in the black community.
“I never know which Starr I should be. I can use some slang, but not too much slang, some attitude, but not too much attitude, so I’m not a ‘sassy black girl.’ I have to watch what I say and how I say it, but I can’t sound ‘white.”
I know what it feels like ot have to act a certain way in order to not be perceived another way. Whenever I talk to people about working so hard all these years to be be seen a certain way. And I realize that it is because I did not want to act, or be seen the way that black woman are seen in the media/public. The minute I lose my cool, whether it is justified or not, I know I am seen as the “angry black woman”.
“I’ve taught myself to speak with two different voices and only say certain things around certain people. I’ve mastered it.”
As I saw in my living room watching, I cried. I cried at the same part I cried at in the grocery store. When Starr’s friend was killed for grabbing a brush from the car. Then I cried when it was the next morning and Starr threw up into her room trash can. I cried some more watching Starr battling with herself over whether she should speak out as the witness to her friend’s murder. When her classmates used the BLM angle to get out of class, I cried. Eventually Starr found her voice, and I cried. Honestly, I cannot tell you the last thing I cried at – let alone a movie. But this movie moved me in ways I did not expect.
My understanding is the book falls into the YA genre and there were some reviews indicating it was written for youngins. So I am not sure if I would have enjoyed the book more than the movie which is normally the case.
If you read the book, I feel like you’d like the movie – whether you really enjoyed the book or not. If you did not read the book, but are interested in a powerful story, you’ll like it. This movie definitely touched me. Obviously, I’ve never bragged about crying before.