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a bookclique pick by Karen Marquis Derby

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas first caught my eye when I saw it lying casually on my colleague’s desk and upon investigating, I found she was teaching it for her senior seminar class on 21st century literature. Once my own copy was in my hands, I was riveted. I think this was because it brought me back to my own childhood in many ways. But it was also current, covering essential topics our country faces, it seems, weekly. 


Angie Thomas poses an ever-challenging question – What is it like to split time between two different cultures, two different worlds, in the same country, in the same town? Starr Carter must navigate these two worlds, while also navigating two very different “versions” of herself. The first version is the Starr of Garden Heights, the black neighborhood where she lives with her family, and the second is Starr of Williamson, the “bougie” white private school where she is captain of the basketball team. 


Keeping these two worlds apart is Starr’s priority. But when Starr witnesses her childhood friend being shot by a white policeman, these two worlds collide in ways she can no longer control.  From Tupac to Taylor Swift, Harry Potter to the reality of gang violence, Thomas carefully intertwines these two worlds through a variety of motifs and metaphors. As a result, Star must learn how to move out from the shadows and into the spotlight, whether she wants to or not.


In a community that can be hostile and limiting, Starr develops into a young woman who can also see the richness, sustainability and productivity of it. Starr’s voice is wholly convincing. Indeed, she sounds like the voice of many of my students, and it’s a voice from whom we must hear more.

Karen Marquis Derby

Karen Marquis Derby teaches AP and IB English literature and has been teaching for more than 20 years. Karen lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and daughter. This is her first foray in the blogging world.