The Hate U Give is about a black girl named Starr Carter, who struggles with the prospect of speaking up after her unarmed black friend is shot by a white police officer. The novel covers themes such as racism, gang life, and code switching and can be emotionally heavy at times.
Each time I think of The Hate U Give, I think of the Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Junior and Starr are so incredibly similar yet very different. In fact, those two remind me of one of Charles Darwin’s observations in his famous voyage to the Galapagos: species can be ecologically different, yet similar. Obviously, both Junior and Starr do not live under the same circumstances, yet both have a cynical, nonchalant sassiness of a teenager living under difficult circumstances. The only differences between the two of them is that Junior is a boy and his tribe is plagued with alcohol whereas Starr is a girl and plagued by gang violence and drugs. Both also, have to deal with the issue of racism. Starr deals with racism by ignoring it and pretending that it is not that big of a deal until a racist cop kills her friend. Just like Starr, Junior requires a drastic event to convince him to nip racism in the bud. Roger making fun of buffalo, black people, and Indians convinces Junior to fight back. The similarities are so uncanny, that I feel as if Sherman Alexie and Angie Thomas formed some kind of author conspiracy where they wrote the same thing with different characters and problems.
Another recurring idea in both Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and The Hate U Give is code switching. Both Starr and Junior turn on a “white” switch in which they act completely different than how they do around their own race. In The Hate U Give, Starr compares her “hood” self to her white or Williamson self. She says that at Williamson she “doesn’t use slang—if a rapper would say it, she doesn’t say it, even if her white friends do. Slang makes them cool. Slang makes her “hood.” Williamson Starr holds her tongue when people piss her off so nobody will think she’s the “angry black girl.” Williamson Starr is approachable. No stank-eyes, side-eyes, none of that. Williamson Starr is non confrontational. Basically, Williamson Starr doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her ghetto” (Thomas 72). Even though Starr lives in Garden Heights, a ghetto filled with gangs, drugs, and violence, she goes to a preppy high school where everyone is rich and lives in a perfect neighborhood. She wants to be seen besides her class and color so tries to be the opposite of what the stereotype for “hood” girls are. This signifies that fact that she is ashamed to be poor, black, and living in a neighborhood where gunshots are so common, they go unnoticed. In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Junior goes to school with his Indian mindset. He fights the biggest white kid after a tussle, but does not realize that the social norms in Reardan are very different compared with Indian norms. What he takes as normal-punching a guy in the face-is considered murderous and violent to others. This helps Junior create a new, white persona for himself as someone who dates a white girl, plays basketball with white boys against Indian boys, and is best friends with someone who is white. Both Junior and Starr, however, can not always keep out what happens at the home. Junior stays home from school for many days due to funerals and wakes and seems to find out someone else dies everyday. This carries on to class, where his teachers mock him for missing so much school, carrying over the insults from back home on the rez to also at Reardan. Starr takes Khalil’s (her dead friend) murder very seriously and becomes more and more upset and angry at Williamson which causes some of her “friends” to make fun of her for being upset.