Angie Thomas: The Novelist Who Promotes Activism

If you haven’t heard of Angie Thomas, then you’ve been missing out. This Young Adult author uses her writing to promote activism while telling a story that many can relate to, but few ever hear.

In 2017, Thomas’ debut novel, The Hate U Give, debuted at number one on The New York Times best-seller list for "Young Adult Hardcover Books." Just this past week her second novel, On The Come Up, took the top spot, with her debut novel in second place. People of all ages are reading and loving her books.

I first read The Hate U Give in the summer of 2018, after hearing that the story was adapted into a movie. I decided to pick up a copy to see if it lived up to the hype; it exceeded my expectations.

The Hate U Give is about a girl named Starr Carter who witnesses a police officer shoot and kill one of her childhood best friends who was unarmed, leading to her interest in activism. She is stuck between two worlds: the poor, predominantly black neighborhood where she lives and the wealthy, predominantly white prep school she attends. The story tackles police brutality, prejudice and the importance of activism. It is about a young girl who finds her voice through activism.

"I’ve always seen writing as a form of activism. If nothing else, books give us a glimpse into lives that we may not have known about before; they can promote empathy,” Thomas told Publisher Weekly

Thomas has said many times that she does not want people to think the story is “anti-police,” but that it is “anti-police brutality.” The story, in many ways, reflects Angie Thomas’ own life, which she used to fuel her writing. In an interview with Walker Books, Thomas said she wanted to find hope and show the human side of police brutality cases and the activism that ensues as a result. The book tells both Thomas’ story, as well as the stories of many other African-Americans, through Starr. The story did not shy away from hard topics. Many can relate to Starr’s struggles, such as navigating how to talk to friends about sensitive issues like race and the importance of activism. Thomas' books are eye-opening for people who have never experienced these same issues, and they give a new voice to an underrepresented audience.

Angie Thomas with Amandla Stenberg who plays Starr in the movie. (Source: Angie Thomas' Instagram)

 

The Hate U Give has received numerous awards, including the Morris Award, the Odyssey Award, a Printz honor, a Coretta Scott King honor and many more. The movie adaptation received a 97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and, on the Friday of its release, the movie made $2.5 million. Angie Thomas had a cameo in the movie in which she got to experience one of the largest activism scenes in the story first hand, watching her story come alive before her eyes.

Angie Thomas’ books are paving the way for more diverse stories to be told in the future and helping young people find their voice. Although her books are considered Young Adult, everyone can find something to get out of her stories. She has a voice that deserves to be heard, and she is changing the book industry for the better.