Vermont Reads 2020

The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas

A Reflection on Reading about Racism

Christopher Kaufman Ilstrup, Executive Directorby 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.

Video: Let’s Talk Antiracism

Dr. Laura Jiménez joins Vermont State Librarian Jason Broughton to examine ways to lead effective discussions centered on diversity and antiracism.

Dr. Jiménez is Department Chair for Language & Literacy Education at Boston University. She studies literature and literacy through a social justice lens, and focuses on the ways teachers understand the systems of inequity and privilege at play in education, and their own roles within those systems.

As we embark on this year’s Vermont Reads adventure together, we have some commitments to make to you and to members of your community:

  • We will join you in the process of learning about the impacts of systemic racism through the lens of young adult literature, and through the lens of this book in particular. We expect to grow as part of this process, and we also expect to make mistakes. But we are committed to doing this work with you.
  • We know that ALL teachers, librarians and community members working on Vermont Reads 2020 want to use literature and the humanities to make their community a better place. We stand with you.
  • Some Vermont Reads organizers may face resistance to holding conversations about contemporary racism in the United States, as depicted in The Hate U Give, or may face questions about why we need to do this work in Vermont. Vermont Humanities will help you answer those questions.
  • During your application process and during your project, Vermont Humanities will help you identify strong community partners as well as areas where you may need more information and support. We will work with you to find direct opportunities to grow and learn more about the impact of racism in Vermont.
  • We will provide information and resources to all project partners to help communities understand the importance of avoiding tokenizing or targeting of people of color, especially young people, as you organize Vermont Reads projects.
  • We will provide customized support to each Vermont Reads 2020 project to help make your project a success

Finally, we recognize that working in this space is ongoing and challenging. We’re committed to continuing to support communities and individuals as you read works like The Hate U Give, and also in our other programming that addresses challenging community issues.  Vermont Humanities began addressing racism through literature with our first Vermont Reads choice, Witness by Karen Hesse, back in 2003. That novel, a story about the Klan in Vermont, resonated powerfully for Vermont readers. We continue the journey today and commit to this ongoing work in the future.

Please join us for Vermont Reads 2020!