BEDM: An Evening With Angie Thomas – Guest Post

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It’s been a while since the Angie Thomas event in Manchester, and i still wanted to cover it for you lovely lot because i think Angie discussed some really important topics in the talk. So to break up the last few BEDM posts, here’s Gemma from Gem’s Curiosity Blog talking about the event!

Hello, people of the internet! It’s me, Gemma, again on The Little Contemporary Corner. For today’s post, I’ll be giving Sarah and Sophie a break from BEDM and telling you about ‘The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas’ book event at Waterstones!

When both Sarah and I went to the Waterstones event in Deansgate, Manchester, in April, it ran very smoothly with friendly staff, especially when it came to the book signing after the interview with Angie Thomas herself.

Before she answered the interviewer’s questions, she read an excerpt from her book, The Hate U Give. It was a small excerpt, but it summarised what the book was about as well as help set up the narrative of Starr (the protagonist). Angie Thomas read it out loud perfectly – it really added to the story and atmosphere.

Angie Thomas really is a very funny, witty lady who gives emotional and intelligent answers to the interviewer’s questions. One of the first things she discussed was her amazement and surprise about how different the police force in the UK is to the police force in the USA, especially at the fact that the UK police force don’t carry guns – she jokingly said that the criminals here must be so civilised that they stop running even though the police don’t carry guns. It was this that really demonstrated the differences in UK and USA culture.

What she also said at the beginning of the interview was that she was once told by a cop how to behave in front of another cop, which is similar to what Starr is told in The Hate U Give.

She discussed her personal experiences as well. She grew up in Mississippi. She told us that the Mississippi she grew up in and the Mississippi from the past are two different things as she hadn’t experienced the kind of racism that occurred in the past, like she was never told to give up her seat on a bus to a white person, for example, but racism is still an issue in today’s society. When Oscar Grant was shot in 2009 by police officers, it caused an uproar as he was a young, African-American man who was unarmed. Angie goes on to say that it got attention because it was filmed and she asked, “What about the people who weren’t filmed? Where there isn’t video evidence? No names?” She then went on to say that when she was in senior year, she had a talk to her professor who told her to use her writing talent to give those people a voice again. Angie then jokingly told us, “I paid a lot of money just to learn that.”

So that’s when she first wrote The Hate U Give: in her senior year. She state that it began as a short story in 2010/2011, and she didn’t finish the whole book until late 2014/early 2015. The first draft took six months and went through a lot of changes since then.

When she was asked about her inspirations, she mentioned that a lot of things inspired her to write as well as the shooting of Oscar Grant. She talked about how she listens to a lot of Tupac, who displayed a lot of wisdom and influenced a lot of the book, including the title. Another intelligent and thought-provoking thing she said that inspired her to write a voice for black women. She explains how she believed that black women aren’t credited enough for their accomplishments as opposed to black males – “There is a lot of attention towards black males, but what about females?” – and how she wanted to give a mirror to the women and a window for those to see through and understand what they’re going through.

I’m not even lying when I say that everything Angie Thomas said was warmly received at the book event. There was lots of applause. When she talked about Starr code-switching (where a person changes the way they speak due to a change in audience, situation etc., so in The Hate U Give, Starr uses Standard English when she is at school and uses dialect and slang when she is at home) and how people who speak in dialect and slang are not stupid, there was a round of applause. When she said that people should read Young Adult fiction as they will open your minds and teach you things, there was a round of applause. When she said that social media should be respected as it gets the message across and have people’s voices heard, there was a round of applause.

Angie Thomas also said that even though racism is still around, people of all races come together in times of tragedy, such as Hurricane Katrina and in the resistance towards Trump. It was then she mentioned how much she loved what the word ‘trump’ means in the UK!

She also admits that she was worried about how The Hate U Give would be received and would be called ‘anti-cop’. This wasn’t her intention as she has officers in her family and Starr has an officer in her family too, who is very close to. But she is overwhelmed with how positive the response has been and how many people have come to her and thanked her for writing the book.

Before the book signing, she stated that she was working on a second book, which isn’t a sequel or a spin off, but is set in the same neighbourhood as Starr in The Hate U Give.

The event was great and I am more than happy to attend another book event at Waterstones. As for Angie Thomas and The Hate U Give, it really is an amazing book and I encourage you to read it if you can. Feel free to read my review of The Hate U Give on my blog, Gem’s Curiosity Blog, and Sarah’s review here on The Little Contemporary Corner!

Thank you for reading!

Gemma x

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