By: Kristin Pekoll
The most powerful voices in support of the freedom to read are the voices that are being silenced. In November, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was pulled from the shelves of the Katy (Texas) Independent School District. Students of Katy ISD have the right to speak to their administration. Parents have a right to speak and an obligation to stand for their child’s rights.
So far, the board and administrators have chosen to ignore letters, tweets and requests by their librarians. Superintendent Dr. Lance Hindt has said that the book “has been removed pending further review based solely on its pervasive vulgarity and not its substantive content or the viewpoint expressed. Contrary to many reports, the book has not been banned. Again, it has been removed consistent with existing policy while an administrative review process is underway.”
The policy that Dr. Hindt references states the exact opposite. The Local Policy EF, approved by the Katy School Board, says on page 4, “Access to a challenged resource shall not be restricted during the reconsideration process, except the District may deny access to a child if requested by the child’s parent.”
The American Library Association (ALA) defines challenged books, banned books, censorship and intellectual freedom as the following:
- A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.
- Censorship is a change in the access status of material, based on the content of the work and made by a governing authority or its representatives. Such changes include exclusion, restriction, removal or age/grade level changes.
- Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.
Supreme courts have ruled in the favor of the First Amendment and student’s intellectual freedom. For example, in Board of Education v. Pico (1982), the United States Supreme Court held that a school board’s attempt to remove controversial titles such as Slaughterhouse-Five and Soul on Ice from the school library was unconstitutional. According to attorney Theresa Chmara, the Court stated that “the right to receive ideas is a necessary predicate to the recipient’s meaningful exercise of his own rights of speech, press, and political freedom” (853, 867). The Court emphasized that “students too are beneficiaries of this principle” (868). Dr. April Dawkins discusses the Pico case in a blog titled “The Pico Case – 35 Years Later.”
Dr. Hindt has cited that he can remove The Hate U Give because he believes it to be “pervasively vulgar.” There is no official definition or qualification for when a book reaches this label. Rather, hundreds of literary experts and educators have deemed the book outstanding and educationally suitable (read starred reviews of The Hate U Give at the end of this post). The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom has not come across a published review that reflects Dr. Hindt’s concerns that the book is “pervasively vulgar.” If profanity is the reason for the book’s ban, why haven’t other books in Katy ISD libraries been banned for “vulgarity”?
How can you help the students of Katy ISD?
“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re going to be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?” — The Hate U Give
1. Submit a letter to the editor
Katy Times – https://katytimes.com/site/forms/online_services/letter/
Houston Chronicle – http://www.chron.com/about/newsroom/ email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Texas Tribune – https://www.texastribune.org/contact/ email@example.com
2. Attend the school board meeting
The next meeting is Jan. 15, 2018 at 6:30 p.m.
Board Room, Education Support Complex
6301 S. Stadium Lane, Katy, TX
3. Attend a book discussion (or start your own)
4. Write a letter to the administration or school board
5. Familiarize yourself with Katy ISD policies
Policy EF addresses selecting and concerns about instructional materials.
“A complainant shall make any formal objection to an instructional resource on the form provided by the District and shall submit the completed and signed form to the principal. Upon receipt of the form, the principal shall appoint a reconsideration committee.
The reconsideration committee shall include at least one member of the instructional staff who has experience using the challenged resource with students or is familiar with the challenged resource’s content. Other members of the committee may include District-level staff, library staff, secondary-level students, parents, and any other appropriate individuals.
All members of the committee shall review the challenged resource in its entirety. As soon as reasonably possible, the committee shall meet and determine whether the challenged resource conforms to the principles of selection set out in this policy. The committee shall prepare a written report of its findings and provide copies to the principal, the Superintendent or designee, and the complainant.”
As of right now, we haven’t seen a formal reconsideration form from a concerned parent.
Don’t let the Katy ISD administration quietly ban this book and sweep it under the rug. Tweet your support of the freedom to read.
#Katyisdbookban | @katyisd | @KatyISDSupt | @angiecthomas | @katyisdstudents
Hello students! While on break, use this opportunity to tell your family members about this book ban. Parents ranging from elementary-high school can go to the parent board meeting. Let’s not let book ban get swept under the rug @angiecthomas #Katyisdbookban
— student activism (@katyisdstudents) December 20, 2017
7. Sign a petition
Support Intellectual Freedom : Keep “The Hate U Give” on Katy ISD Bookshelves by Ny’shira Lundy. So far the petition has more than 3,500 signatures.
8. Read the novel and share on social media
— Linda Sue Park (@LindaSuePark) December 24, 2017
Expert reviews of The Hate U Give
* Starred Review * Grades 9-12 – Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two very different worlds: one is her home in a poor black urban neighborhood; the other is the tony suburban prep school she attends and the white boy she dates there. Her bifurcated life changes dramatically when she is the only witness to the unprovoked police shooting of her unarmed friend Khalil and is challenged to speak out—though with trepidation—about the injustices being done in the event’s wake. As the case becomes national news, violence erupts in her neighborhood, and Starr finds herself and her family caught in the middle. Difficulties are exacerbated by their encounters with the local drug lord for whom Khalil was dealing to earn money for his impoverished family. If there is to be hope for change, Starr comes to realize, it must be through the exercise of her voice, even if it puts her and her family in harm’s way. Thomas’ debut, both a searing indictment of injustice and a clear-eyed, dramatic examination of the complexities of race in America, invites deep thoughts about our social fabric, ethics, morality, and justice. Beautifully written in Starr’s authentic first-person voice, this is a marvel of verisimilitude as it insightfully examines two worlds in collision. An inarguably important book that demands the widest possible readership. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: From the moment this book sold, it has been high-profile. An in-the -works movie adaptation will further push this to the head of the class. — Michael Cart (Reviewed 12/15/2016) (Booklist, vol 113, number 8, p48)
School Library Journal:
* Starred Review */ Gr 8 Up – After Starr and her childhood friend Khalil, both black, leave a party together, they are pulled over by a white police officer, who kills Khalil. The sole witness to the homicide, Starr must testify before a grand jury that will decide whether to indict the cop, and she’s terrified, especially as emotions run high. By turns frightened, discouraged, enraged, and impassioned, Starr is authentically adolescent in her reactions. Inhabiting two vastly different spheres—her poor, predominantly black neighborhood, Garden Heights, where gangs are a fact of life, and her rich, mostly white private school—causes strain, and Thomas perceptively illustrates how the personal is political: Starr is disturbed by the racism of her white friend Hailey, who writes Khalil off as a drug dealer, and Starr’s father is torn between his desire to support Garden Heights and his need to move his family to a safer environment. The first-person, present-tense narrative is immediate and intense, and the pacing is strong, with Thomas balancing dramatic scenes of violence and protest with moments of reflection. The characterization is slightly uneven; at times, Starr’s friends at school feel thinly fleshed out. However, Starr, her family, and the individuals in their neighborhood are achingly real and lovingly crafted. VERDICT Pair this powerful debut with Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely’s All American Boys to start a conversation on racism, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter movement. — Mahnaz Dar (Reviewed 01/01/2017) (School Library Journal, vol 63, issue 1, p105)
* Starred Review * – Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter lives a life many African American teenagers can relate to: a life of double consciousness. Caught between her rough, predominantly black neighborhood and the “proper,” predominantly white prep school she attends, Starr has learned how to “speak with two different voices and only say certain things around certain people.” This precarious balance is broken when Starr witnesses the shooting of her (unarmed) childhood friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. What follows is a gut-wrenching chain of events that alters all Starr holds dear. New relationships are forged, old ones are severed, and adversaries arise as Starr’s family, friends, school, and neighborhood react to Khalil’s death, including questioning who Khalil was, and whether his death was justified. Between her neighborhood’s “no-snitching” code and inaccurate media portrayals, Starr must decide whether or not to speak out—and her decision could endanger her life. With a title taken from rapper Tupac Shakur’s acronym THUG LIFE (“The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody”), the novel introduces numerous components of the urban experience, “thug life” included. From drug addicts to police officers, most characters are multifaceted, proving that Starr’s world is not all black or white (or black vs. white, for that matter). The story, with so many issues addressed, can feel overwhelming at times, but then again, so can the life of an African American teen. Debut author Thomas is adept at capturing the voices of multiple characters, and she ultimately succeeds in restoring Starr’s true voice. Thomas has penned a powerful, in-your-face novel that will similarly galvanize fans of Kekla Magoon’s How It Went Down (rev. 11/14) and Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely’s All American Boys (rev. 11/15).
* Starred Review * – At home in a neighborhood riven with gang strife, Starr Carter, 16, is both the grocer’s daughter and an outsider, because she attends private school many miles away. But at Williamson Prep, where she’s among a handful of black students, she can’t be herself either: no slang, no anger, no attitude. That version of herself— “Williamson Starr”—”doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her ghetto.” She’s already wrestling with what Du Bois called “double consciousness” when she accepts a ride home from Khalil, a childhood friend, who is then pulled over and shot dead by a white cop. Starr’s voice commands attention from page one, a conflicted but clear-eyed lens through which debut author Thomas examines Khalil’s killing, casual racism at Williamson, and Starr’s strained relationship with her white boyfriend. Though Thomas’s story is heartbreakingly topical, its greatest strength is in its authentic depiction of a teenage girl, her loving family, and her attempts to reconcile what she knows to be true about their lives with the way those lives are depicted—and completely undervalued—by society at large. Ages 14–up. Agent: Brooks Sherman, Bent Agency. (Feb.)
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.
Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.
This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14 & up)
Starr Carter can narrate this novel from two perspectives: her home is in Garden Heights, but her parents send her and half-brother Seven to Williamson Prep a significant drive away, because ‘The Garden’ is troubled by gangs, drugs and violence. Violence Starr has witnessed close-up, first when her friend Natasha was shot while playing in the street, then when her childhood friend Khalil, unarmed and not resisting, is shot in her company at the start of the story by a policeman, a colleague of Starr’s Uncle Carlos. The narrative covers Starr’s journey from wanting to hide from the injustice of Khalil’s death and the unrest that follows it, to realising she needs to speak out, for Khalil, herself and her community. Along the way readers are prompted to confront a vast range of issues, above all racism and prejudice, but also identity and belonging, and the meaning of family, community and friendship. Angie Thomas does not avoid the contradictions of the issues she portrays; she shows that people, relationships and situations are complex: policemen can be good and bad (as can parents), people who do bad things like deal in drugs can have understandable reasons and well-intentioned acts can have bad consequences. The writing is hard-hitting, as is the subject matter and language used by the characters, but seeing the world through Starr’s eyes would be a valuable experience for any teenager. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, it addresses the issue in an accessible and impactful way, while also delivering a gripping plot and multi-sided characters and relationships that will linger with the reader long after the story has finished. — Sally Perry
5Q 5P J S
“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.” This is what sixteen-year-old Starr Carter’s mother tells her after she experiences the worst night of her life. After attending a party that she was not supposed to be at, shots ring out. Starr and her childhood friend Khalil safely escape and begin their drive home, but not long after, they see blue flashing lights in the rearview mirror so Khalil pulls over. These are the last few minutes of his life. Starr is living between two worlds: her predominantly white private school and life in an impoverished African American neighborhood. At school, Starr finds herself censoring the way she talks and acts, but at home she feels like an outsider too. Things get exponentially worse after Khalil is murdered by the police officer. Starr struggles with being the one left alive, being the only witness to a horrific crime, and how she should honor Khalil’s memory, all while trying to keep herself and her family safe.
The Hate U Give is an important and timely novel that reflects the world today’s teens inhabit. With news reports seeming to constantly feature police brutality, Thomas gives an honest and true voice to a victim. Starr’s struggles create a complex character, and Thomas boldly tackles topics like racism, gangs, police violence, and interracial dating. Authenticity is critical in novels, and Thomas delivers an authentic plot with realistic, relatable characters. This novel educates readers from any background about the police brutality and racism that led to the Black Lives Matter movement. This topical, necessary story is highly recommended for all libraries – Loryn Aman
The Atlantic; Common Sense Media, Huffington Post,New York Times, The Guardian, LA Times, NPR, Bookstr, Entertainment Weekly, Nerdy Book Club, The Book Smugglers, Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon
15,250 reader reviews on Goodreads.com with an average of 4.59 out of 5 stars.
Honors awarded to The Hate U Give
The Hate U Give is on the following lists
2017 National Book Award Longlist, Young People’s Literature
TIME’s list of Top 10 Young Adult & Children’s Books of 2017
NoveList Best Teen Fiction 2017
Indigo Best Books of 2017
NPR’s Guide To 2017’s Great Reads
National Network of State Teachers of the Year Social Justice Book List
Oprah’s Favorite Books of 2017
Need help? More resources to share?
Contact Kristin at ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-280-4221