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This blog was featured on 10/19/2018
Angie Thomas on Code-Switching, Hip Hop & Her Book's Namesake Tattoo
Written by
She Writes
October 2018
Written by
She Writes
October 2018

Angie Thomas’s no. 1 New York Times bestselling YA novel, The Hate U Give, tackles the issue of police brutality with grace, empathy and thoughtfulness. It is now being adapted into a movie, slated for release this fall. Looking further into her writing background and life, we pulled together the most important things you should know about Angie as an author. 

On Navigating Her Culture, Environment & Hollywood

Angie Thomas grew up in a privileged mostly-white community – an experience that gave her an understanding of the black culture into which she was born, and the white culture in which she was immersed.

“My experience growing up was the same as Starr’s,” said Thomas. “I lived in a black community, but I went to a white private school. I think that gave me some superpowers in some ways that I think a lot of black girls have to gain, which is the ability to navigate different environments and code-switch between them, and know how your mannerisms and the way that you speak are going to affect the way people interpret you, and therefore how you succeed or don’t in certain atmospheres.”

“At my school, I learned very early on how to navigate white institutions, being around a culture of wealth and a culture of whiteness. And that gave me some really important skills when it comes to navigating Hollywood as well, and navigating the environment in industries that are dominated by white men.”

This excerpt was originally published on Vox. Read the full interview here.

On Diversity in Literature:

Despite the book’s success and incredible timeliness, submitting her work was an intimidating process. She recognized the need for diversity, but asked herself: “How diverse is too diverse?”

“I was afraid to send the book out to literary agents,” she admits. “If you said the words ‘black lives matter’ to 30 people, you’d get 30 different reactions. I knew there were calls for diversity in children’s lit, but you always wonder as a person of color, how diverse is too diverse? I knew that I made this book as unapologetically black as possible, so I was afraid to query it.”

This excerpt was originally published on The Cut. Read the full interview here.

“Literature plays a huge role in examining difficult real-life issues. I see writing as a form of activism – it can give us windows into lives and issues that we may not otherwise have, thus promoting empathy. And when you understand an issue and share the feelings of those who are directly affected, you're more likely to join in on the fight.”

This excerpt was originally published on The Bookseller. Read the full interview here.

On Advice for New Authors:

To new or struggling authors, Thomas’s advice is to not worry about all the advice. Here’s what she suggests:

  1. Don’t overwhelm yourself with “writer’s advice.” There are lots of tips out there, lots of so-called “guidelines” but at the end of the day, do what works for you.
  2. Write for yourself. Don’t write for trends, awards, accolades, film adaptations, any of that. Write the book that you’d like to see on a bookstore shelf that you haven’t seen yet.

This excerpt was originally published on the Nathan Brandsford Blog. Read the full interview here.

On the Movie:

And while Thomas didn’t write for a film adaptation as she cautions above, that’s exactly what happened. Released this fall and directed by George Tillman Jr., the movie promises to stay true to the novel.

“Books and movies are fraternal twins,” says Thomas. “They’re not going to be identical, they’re not going to look exactly the same, but they are going to share a lot of similarities. And what got me from the very beginning was that everyone was dedicated to making sure that the heart of the book remained in the movie. It’s a 400-something page book, that’s hard to get into a movie, but it’s so spot on, I couldn’t be happier.”

This excerpt originally appeared on Flickering Myth. Watch the full video interview here.

On the Influence of Hip Hop:

It takes a special writer to inspire a range of emotion throughout a novel in the way that Thomas accomplished. For that, she credits none other than Tupac.

“I often say that I want to write like Tupac rapped,” she says. “I could listen to his album and within a few minutes, I could go from thinking deeply to laughing to crying to partying. And that’s what I want to do as a writer – I want to make you think at times; I want to make you laugh at times; I want to make you cry at times – so he was an influence in that way.”

This excerpt was originally published on NPR. Read the full interview here.

“For me as a writer, music definitely fills me as I write. Hip hop is poetry, hip hop is art, and it fuels me and it fuels how I write. I want to be unfiltered. I want to be raw, I want to go there. And that’s exactly what we’re doing with this movie. It’s unfiltered. It’s going there. It’s touching on these topics the same way a rapper would. I think in a lot of ways, it’s reflective of the culture. It’s reflective of the art form of hip hop. We’re not holding back. We’re going to show you the ups and the downs and the highs and the lows. And that’s what hip hop does.”

This excerpt originally appeared on Flickering Myth. Watch the full video interview here.

Thomas’s writing isn’t the only thing inspired by hip-hop. The title of her book comes straight from one of Tupac’s tattoos.

“The title comes from the infamous "Thug Life" tattoo that Tupac Shakur had across his abdomen. So many people know him for that tattoo, but most people don't know that it was actually an acronym for "The Hate U Give Little Infants F**ks Everybody." He explained that as meaning that what society feeds into youth has a way of coming back and affecting us all. That's exactly what happens in the book.”

This excerpt was originally published on The Bookseller. Read the full interview here.

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