Vermont Humanities

A Reflection on Reading about Racism

Author Katherine Paterson at podium, speaking to a student
Vermont Reads

Christopher Kaufman Ilstrupby Christopher Kaufman Ilstrup, Executive Director


Learning, growing, speaking up, speaking out.

Making mistakes, standing back up, trying again.

Vermont Reads 2020: The Hate U Give was announced in early September of 2019 and here at Vermont Humanities we have already had the opportunity to learn, grow, speak up, and speak out – and make mistakes.  And then learn some more. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is turning out to be a powerful choice and we are just at the very beginning of our journey with this book.

Following our successful Vermont Reads 2019 book, March: Book One by Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, The Hate U Give tells a strikingly similar story, albeit a fictional one.  It relates a tough story about racism in the context of a key civil rights effort of today, the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Hate U Give is in many ways a perfect follow up to March: Book One. John Lewis has spent his life—from the time that he was the same age as the 16-year old hero of The Hate U Give—fighting the battles that Starr fights in this compelling contemporary novel. Starr’s struggle to find her voice will likely resonate deeply with any kid who is facing down violence in their home, their neighborhood or their country.

We know that The Hate U Give is likely to provoke passionate conversations in Vermont. In some cases those conversations will be difficult or challenging.  We hope that readers will learn, grow, speak up, speak out, make mistakes, and learn some more. And we hope that they will feel empathy and compassion for the many different characters they will encounter in Angie Thomas’ book.

We know that March: Book One also inspired passionate discussion, and encouraged communities across Vermont to learn how to address violence with non-violence. Those discussions were powerful and exciting, and we were heartened to see community members connecting John Lewis’ work in the 1950s and 1960s with the issues of today. We see an opportunity to deepen those conversations with The Hate U Give.

Vermont Humanities*** December 24, 2021