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This blog was featured on 02/07/2019
Angie Thomas on Her Latest Novel: On the Come Up
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
January 2019
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
January 2019

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas took the country by storm with her award-winning 2017 debut novel, The Hate U Give, which went on to become a major motion picture late last year.

Now after much anticipation, she’s back with a follow up novel: On the Come Up, set to be released later this month. Like The Hate You Give, it’s set in a fictional, underprivileged inner-city neighborhood that’s predominantly black. But while her first novel focused on current social issues, On the Come Up goes deeply personal for Thomas, drawing likeness to her own upbringing.  

On Inspiration for Her Latest Novel

“When I started the book, I thought about what was the most traumatic thing in my life,” says Thomas. “And fortunately for me, it wasn’t losing a friend like Starr did, but unfortunately it was that experience of my mom losing her job and my family going into that crisis mode.”

In addition to her mother's unemployment, Thomas was bullied at school and as a result, began suffering mental health issues. Her mother pulled her from school and began overseeing her education while also looking after her own sick mother.

“Yeah, it was a challenge,” Thomas goes on. “We were living off the benefits my grandmother received and, even with that, there were days when we didn’t know if we’d have enough food. So, this book was definitely from my own experience.”

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

On Rejection

Like most authors, Thomas experienced her share of rejection along the road to publishing. She credits a strong community of published and aspiring authors for the support she needed to persevere. She now returns the favor, cheering on all the writers out there who feel like they'll never break through:

“Rejection is always hard, and a lot of rejection is really hard,” she says. “But what helped me was the community of unpublished authors out there on the internet, so you can connect and you can weep and mourn together. And I always had to remind myself that it only takes one yes to change everything. That’s what I tell aspiring writers now. I know writers who had 500 rejections, and more than that – but you just have to keep going and hope that you do get that one yes.”

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

On Characters

Besides location, other parallels exist between Thomas’ two books. Starr and Bri are both strong, independent characters, but they are also very different.

“I compare Bri and Starr to Biggie and Tupac,” laughs Thomas. “Without the beef! Tupac was very community-orientated, and that’s how Starr is. But Bri, similar to Biggie, she’s about making it, she’s about seeing her dreams come to life. She’s about trying to save her family, and there’s nothing wrong with that. So that’s where they’re different, but they’re similar in the fact that they are both powerful young women who know they have voices, and they both understand how they can use those voices to affect an entire generation.”

“Someone recently asked me, did I think that Starr and Bri would get along? I think they would have their little clashes every now and then, but they would get along because both of them care deeply about others, and about their families and their community, and they can find common ground on that. It’s just they have different approaches to address the things that affect them.”

On Inspiring Activism & Positivity

Thomas has been credited for inspiring young activists through her work, which takes a positive approach to highly sensitive topics. Here she speaks about aligning books with acts of resistance.

“Rudine Sims Bishop [the author and educator] says that books are either mirrors, windows or sliding-glass doors, and that’s important in the act of resistance. You need that mirror to see yourself, to know what you can be and know what you are. And then you need that window to see into someone else’s life so you can understand what’s happening around you in the world that you may not notice at first glance. And you need the sliding-glass door so that you can step into someone else’s life and walk in with some empathy and use that empathy to make yourself heard. So yeah, I think books play a huge role in resistance. They play a huge role in opening people’s eyes and they’re a form of activism in their own right, in the fact that they do empower people and show others the lives of people who may not be like themselves.”

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

Read on for more about Angie Thomas’ writing background and life here, where we pulled together the most important things you should know about Angie as an author. 

Photo Credit: Anissa Hidouk

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