A young adult novel inspired by the international Black Lives Matter movement and iconic rapper Tupac Shakur has won the Waterstones children’s book prize for its depiction of police brutality and race in America.
Author Angie Thomas was recognized at a ceremony in London this week, according to the Guardian.
Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, depicts the life of a young girl named Starr who wrestles with the death of a close friend killed by a police officer in an all too familiar fashion. She lives in poverty but attends an affluent school to receive a better education. Starr journeys through a society where police violence is common and race is always at the forefront.
Thomas told i News that she is both excited and saddened that the book hit home with British audiences.
"It's so exciting that young British readers have connected with Starr's story," Thomas said. "But it's also heartbreaking that they are connecting with the pain of those issues of police violence and racism."
The Hate U Give was inspired by a number of influences including Tupac and the Black Lives Matter movement. In fact, the title comes from Tupac's group Thug Life – the name of his group and their only studio album – which stood for the phrase: “The Hate U Give Little Infants F*cks Everybody.”
Thomas told The Observer in 2017 that several high profile cases of police brutality ignited her creative spark. The deaths of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice and others sadden her to her core.
“So many teenagers are affected by these cases. It’s usually young, unarmed black people who lose their lives. Trayvon Martin was 17, Mike Brown was young, Tamir Rice was 12. And so young people are affected by it, possibly the most affected, because they’re seeing themselves,” she said.
Waterstones managing director James Daunt said The Hate U Give deserves a readership wider than only young adults.
“Ours is a children’s prize, but there is no upper age limit to being stunned by beautiful writing of this visceral power. It is an extraordinary achievement, and it triumphs in a year of wonderful quality and creativity in children’s publishing,” Daunt said.
In addition to the international acclaim, Thomas' book is also shortlisted for the 2018 Carnegie Medal. And, it will soon appear on the silver screen; it is currently be made into a film starring Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Anthony Mackie and Common.