Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

It’s tempting to think of Angie Thomas’ YA novel The Hate U Give as being ripped straight from the latest headlines about an unarmed black person shot by the police. But that would miss the point that for many people, Thomas included, the news is not only news: it is lived experience—raw and achingly intimate. And the lives stolen are individual, particular to specific families, neighborhoods, and communities, not generic fodder for hashtags and sound bites.

Thomas says she sometimes has to turn off the television or step away from social media because after a while it feels as if the loss of black lives is mere entertainment or politics. “It’s personal for us,” she says. “We hear politicians and officials debate what’s happened and what’s happening. It’s like, Now really, do you not realize you’re talking about someone’s life here? What about the people who are mourning this?”

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