Vermont Reads 2020The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas
Following up on the success of our Vermont Reads 2019 book, March: Book One by Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, was always going to be a daunting task. We have been buried in piles of young adult literature for months, looking for just the right book for Vermont Reads 2020.
Our choice was first suggested to us back in the winter, but when we overheard the middle school kids at our St. Albans Humanities Camp raving about it as one of their most valued reads, we were convinced: we had to choose the young Mississippi writer Angie Thomas’ debut novel, The Hate U Give.
I applaud the choice of The Hate U Give by the Vermont Humanities Council for their 2020 Vermont Reads book. My hope is that it will promote healthy dialogue about race and bias among all Vermonters.
This book is different than some of our previous choices. It deals with tough stuff, like trying to escape gangs, or watching friends die violent deaths right in front of you. Readers learn about code switching – developing different personalities to keep yourself safe depending on where you are. The book runs headlong into the challenges faced by young black kids in a world that doesn’t value their bodies or respect their voices.
And in that sense, it’s actually a perfect follow up to March. 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.
I’ve seen it happen over and over again: a black person gets killed for just being black, and all hell breaks loose. I’ve tweeted RIP hashtags, reblogged pictures on Tumblr, and signed every petition out there. I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down.
Now I am that person, and I’m too afraid to speak.
In many ways, The Hate U Give is a universal story about a young girl making the choice to speak out. But as a story that kicks off with a police shooting of an unarmed black teenager, it’s also very particular to the experience of black Americans. For this reason, we’ve reached out to leaders of color and to the law enforcement community. We’re excited to kick off Vermont Reads 2020 with a strong vote of confidence from leaders in both communities.
Through the power of storytelling, The Hate U Give helps us explore issues of bias and hate, and their impact on communities. As Attorney General, I am committed to having honest conversations about the impact of racism and hate in our state, with the hope that together we can create an inclusive, diverse, and hate-free Vermont. I look forward to partnering with Vermont Humanities on Vermont Reads 2020 to harness the power of books to spark change.
Major Ingrid Jonas, a leader in the fair and impartial policing project at Vermont State Police, notes, “The Vermont State Police are excited to partner with Vermont Reads in 2020. We have long been engaged in work to ensure fair and impartial policing and build trust between underrepresented communities and police. One part of that is to have honest and direct conversations, and this book provides that opportunity. We look forward to engaging in the discussion.”
We are excited to announce that Vermont Reads 2020 will be The Hate U Give by a powerful new voice, Angie Thomas. We look forward to reading with you.
We will post more information about Vermont Reads 2020—including a full Information Packet—in December.
Vermont Reads Supporters
Vermont Humanities is grateful to the underwriter of Vermont Reads 2020, Jan Blomstrann, and for the support of the Jack & Dorothy Byrne Foundation. Vermont Public Radio is our media partner; each year VPR presents several days of Vermont Reads programming.