Angie Thomas’ debut novel, The Hate U Give, has spent more than three years on The New York Times bestseller list, where it was joined by her second novel, On the Come Up, and now her third, Concrete Rose. Blockbuster books and two major film adaptations have amplified Thomas’ clear, crucial voice when we need it most—to #BlackLivesMatter protesters, igniting real change in the fight for racial justice, and through the chaos of a global pandemic that is disproportionately hurting people of color. Her keynotes are powerful, urgent, necessary, and most importantly, hopeful.
“As we continue to fight the battle against police brutality and systemic racism in America, The Hate U Give serves as a much needed literary ramrod.”— Jason Reynolds, bestselling co-author of All American Boys
For its “pointed examinations of gun violence, racial profiling, and political activism,” Angie Thomas’The Hate U Give has become an instant masterwork of the YA genre: called “a stunning, brilliant, gut-wrenching novel that will be remembered as a classic of our time” by The Fault in Our Stars author John Green. Part of a 13-house publishing auction, the novel is now a major motion picture and Amazon’s Audible named it one of their 10 Best Audiobooks of the decade. The Hate U Give explores the world of sixteen-year-old Starr Carter: a girl who walks a careful line between her upper-crust prep school and the poverty-stricken neighborhood where she grew up. But when she witnesses a police officer shooting her best friend Khalil—an unarmed youth—Starr is plunged into even more uncertainty. Thomas’ latest book, Concrete Rose, will tell the story of Maverick Carter—Starr’s father. “Of all characters who really just stayed with me, Maverick was at the top of that list,” Thomas tells People. The novel chronicles Maverick’s journey—from 17-year-old kid, to the young father of Starr’s older brother, Seven—and explores themes of teen pregnancy, police bruality, and the prison system as a form of modern-day slavery. “I’m also excited to show this bonding between father and son. So many people assume that Black kids, especially Black kids in the hood, don’t have fathers. And that’s a lie. So many of them do.”
Thomas’ second novel, On the Come Up, follows a talented teen rapper, Bri, and explores what it means to be young and black in America, when freedom of speech isn’t always free. It “feels like an event of political urgency,” says The Times, “a love letter to hip hop, to family, to Michael B. Jordan...to any pop culture that holds a mirror so that kids like Bri can see themselves too.” It was named to many 2019 year-end best of lists, including those byVariety, Glamour, and Chapters Indigo, and was also named one of the year’s best YA titles by Kirkus Reviews. The film version of On the Come Up is already in development at Paramount Players, with Thomas herself producing.
Angie Thomas is the recipient of the William C. Morris Award and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, and was nominated for the Michael L. Printz Award and the Coretta Scott King Award. She is the inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Myers Grant, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Born, raised, and still residing in Jackson, Mississippi—and a former teen rapper—she holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in hip hop.
The Hate U Give Finding Your Activism and Turning the Political into the Personal
In this talk, Angie Thomas traces the development of her captivating debut, The Hate U Give—and in so doing, speaks to the heart of race, activism, and social change in America today. She explains why young black people need to see themselves in fiction—especially as they are forced to see themselves, traumatically and routinely, as the victims of discrimination, poverty, and police brutality. She demonstrates why we need more compelling depictions of black girls in art, often lost in discussions of black youth in general. She argues for writing that can turn the merely political into the deeply personal: a way to inspire action and speaking truth to power. And she makes audiences see, and feel, why empathy is more powerful than sympathy—and when done right, that fiction can help us find our voice, or lend it to others. Ultimately, Angie Thomas is the young, outspoken writer ready to hit three truths home: that life fuels art, art mirrors life, and books can change lives.
Hip Hop as News, Mirror, and Narrative Art Exploring Urban America’s CNN
Before we witnessed the killing of Oscar Grant—and before we watched the Rodney King footage—hip-hop groups like NWA were telling America what was really happening on the streets. As Chuck D of Public Enemy once said: “Rap is black America’s CNN.” For decades, rappers have given voice to America’s most marginalized communities—and often better than newspapers, movies, television, or books. For Angie Thomas—herself a former MC—hip hop explains what it means to be young and black in this country today. It gives voice to the voiceless and wraps urban struggle in deft lyricism and poetry. And in an era of increasing unrest, viral tragedy, and very potent outrage, it also connects with the frustration of young black America in such a way that it can be scary. But for Thomas—and for a growing generation of political, engaged artists—these fears are misplaced. If hip hop is a mirror, then we should be more afraid of why so many people are angry in the first place. In this engrossing talk, Thomas explores the power of hip hop—from Tupac to Chance, Kendrick to Nas, Grandmaster Flash to Biggie Smalls—and shows what it can do: as poetry, as connection, and as a vital form of the news.