“A hairbrush is not a gun.”
Author: Angie Thomas
Publication Date: February 28th, 2017
Starr Carter is sixteen years old when she witnesses a childhood best friend, Khalil, killed by a police officer after being pulled over. What comes afterward is Starr’s struggle to live with having seen another of her friends killed.
The more that I think about this book, the more I love it. For a while I thought that while this book discussed the themes it set out to discuss beautifully, it didn’t really offer any solutions.
But, honestly, how do you solve racism? Well, you don’t. At least not easily. It is a long, difficult road that requires the people that care not shutting up about it. To instead keep talking about it and keep fighting against it even when society seems fatigued from hearing about it so much. And that was the ultimate message of this story.
“Khalil, I’ll never forget.
I’ll never give up.
I’ll never be quiet.
I did feel like there were some conflicting messages in the book though.
There was a riot toward the end of the book and I think the frustration that leads to the riots being started was wonderfully portrayed. As much as I am against the violence on both sides, I could absolutely understand the emotions and the struggles that lead up to it.
Of course, riots are not the answer to anything. The violence they bring runs counter the message of the book that an individual’s voice is their strongest weapon in a fight to end violence. One way that I feel like the author failed was in that while she did condemn the riots and violence, it was only in a kind of throwaway line. What actually happened was the main character participating in the riot in a kind of hero-like way; something that she needed to do in order to make peace with what she witnessed and while the writing made very clear the emotions and frustration of doing everything the “right” way and it still not being enough that went into her ending up there, I have a problem with this being portrayed as the answer.
Also, I’ve seen other reviews bring up reverse racism. Yeah, it’s kind of there. Sometimes I felt like it was less racism and more demonstrating the gap between the races.
Starr has a white boyfriend. After seeing a white man murder her friend with a very good chance of getting away with it, she begins to question how she can be with him when there are such obvious differences in their lives. When she pushes him away and he presses her to explain what is going on with her, she ends up shouting at him that its because he is white.
Is this racist? Eh, without context, kind of. But I really felt like this was just a part of the struggle that she was going through as her pain and tried to come to terms with what little power she had to change things.
On the other hand, there were some jokes and snide remarks made about white people that, again, went against a message of ending the discrimination. Comments like how white people kiss their dogs on the mouth (as a white woman all I can say to this is “ew!”) or how white people pronounce Target “tar-jay” (which is a joke), or how white people always want to split up (so now we are counting fictional things? I guess fictional black stereotypes are legit then?). None of this really had a purpose in the narrative, there was no message here, nothing bigger than cracking jokes. The only thing that I can figure, and this is really reaching, is that this was meant to draw a parallel with black people jokes; that the racist jokes that are told at their expense are just as false as the jokes made here. Like I said, I feel like I am reaching a little bit here though. More than anything it felt like the author taking a few pokes at white people.
I’m not really offended by any of the jokes but it does upset me that a book that is all about racism and its evils makes racist remarks.
Even with these conflicting messages though, I do think that this is an important book and it came at a very good time.