Angie Thomas: 5 books that changed my life

Angie Thomas' debut novel, The Hate U Give, is striking an important and timely chord with readers. Thomas took some time to let q know the books that have inspired her writing.

The Hate U Give author reveals the books that have inspired her.

Angie Thomas' debut novel, The Hate U Give, immediately shot to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list. (Anissa Hidouk)

Angie Thomas' debut novel The Hate U Give is striking an important and timely chord with readers, and has been on the New York Times bestseller list since it was published earlier this year. It is written from the perspective of 16-year-old Starr Carter who witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Thomas recently spoke with q about the book, and afterwards she took some extra time to let us know the books that have inspired her writing.

— Del Cowie, q digital staff

Mildred D. Taylor, Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry

"I often cite that book as the most important in my childhood because it was the first time I read a book about a black girl in Mississippi and there I was, a black girl in Mississippi. So it was really the first book I connected with. And it opened the gates wide open for me as a reader. And it hooked me to reading. And what I loved so much about that book was seeing a girl who resembled me in so many ways, but seeing her [...] like a better version of me — the version I wish I could be. The main character, Cassie, is such a strong character. Strong-willed, strong-minded and I wish I could have been that way when I was a kid. She was my hero in so many ways."
The 40th anniversary of Mildred D. Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry features a new cover by acclaimed illustrator Kadir Nelson. (Penguin Random House/Kadir Nelson)

Walter Dean Myers, Monster
"That book stays with you. I think it was the first time I read a book that had a different type of format — because he uses screenplays and a diary — and so I remember thinking, 'Wow, this is so cool.' It was the quickest book I've read because of that. It's so hard-hitting, it's so real. And it really does stay with you. Not only is Walter Dean Myers just an amazing writer, the story stays with you."
The late novelist Walter Dean Myers in New York City, 1982 (Constance Myers (WalterDeanMyers.net))

Jacqueline Woodson, After Tupac and D. Foster

"I remember that book got me back into reading a little bit, first of all 'cause Tupac was in the title [laughs]. I was in college when it came out and I just remember reading that book and thinking, 'Yeah, I can still read young-adult books,' because it was not geared to my age range and it was such a great story. And honestly Jacqueline Woodson is such a master at writing that I can name any of her books as a book that influenced me.

"I met her not too long ago and I fangirled, I can't lie. But I definitely would recommend that book for anybody who has not read her work and wants to start off, maybe a younger reader — the way she referenced not just '90s culture, but just Tupac stuff. That book really influenced me and The Hate U Give. It kinda gave me the green light to go ahead and make my book such a Tupac-influenced book."
Author Jacqueline Woodson was the 2014 winner of the National Book Award for her New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming. (Marty Umans)

Kekla Magoon, How it Went Down

"Magoon is an amazing author from New York City and that was probably the first young-adult book to really touch on the issues of Black Lives Matter. In the book, a young black boy is killed by a vigilante. It's a lot like with Trayvon Martin, but there were quite a few witnesses, if I'm not mistaken. And it's told in alternating points of view from everybody in the community. I think there's at least 15 different points of view in that book, but it makes something that's so often seen as political, personal, and it shows why and how a community sometimes reacts in rage when this happens, so I would definitely recommend it as a starter for anyone who is interested in Black Lives Matter books. I would even recommend it before you read mine because it really does get to the core of the issue. And it really shows how there can be different opinions in the community about a situation like this."
Kekla Magoon is a YA novelist of several books including How It Went Down.

Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely​, All-American Boys

"It's another book that addresses issues around Black Lives Matter and one thing that makes this book very unique is that [there are] two authors — one is black, the other is white. So in the book, we actually get two main characters; one is black and one is white. And they are both connected in a way and not connected. The black character is the victim of police brutality and the white character not only witnesses it but his uncle is the cop who commits the crime, so we get it from a very personal and interesting perspective through these two young men, and it is [...] one of the most important young-adult books to come out in recent years.

"I know black kids who read it and they see the white character and it helps them understand some things and then I know the white kids who read it; through the black characters' perspective, it helps them understand some things. So I feel like that book has built a lot of bridges."
Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely are the authors of All-American Boys. ((Kia Chenelle/Gary Joseph Cohen))


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