By Alyssa Schnugg
Middle and high school students from Oxford, Lafayette and Batesville got the opportunity to “meet” New York Times best-selling author Angie Thomas Wednesday.
Thomas appeared to the group of about 75 students at the Oxford & Lafayette County Public Library through a Skype call that was projected onto a large screen in the auditorium.
Thomas is the author of “The Hate U Give,” a young adult novel that follows a 16-year-old black girl, Starr Carter, who is drawn to activism after she witnesses the police shoot her friend.
The book debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times Young Adult Best-Seller List, where it remained for 50 weeks. It’s won several awards and a movie, released in October, was made from the book.
Thomas spoke to the students for about 10 minutes explaining why she wrote, “The Hate U Give.”
Shaken by the death of Oscar Grant who was killed by police in 2009 in California, Thomas said she took to pen and paper to express her emotions.
“I didn’t know Oscar personally, but I took his death very personally,” Thomas told the students. “I remember being so angry and hurt and frustrated I didn’t know what to do. I decided to write. I wrote a short story … It was my way of expressing myself and hopefully helping my classmates understand and a way for me to process my own feelings.”
That short story was her senior project in Belhaven University’s creative writing program, which eventually turned into her first full novel.
Thomas answered several questions from the students about the book, including its characters, the movie and whether Thomas liked how the movie turned out.
“I went into it knowing the movie and the book would be fraternal twins and not identical twins,” she said, “and that was something I was OK with as long as they shared the same DNA and the same heart.”
Thomas was born and raised in Jackson, where she still lives. She told the students much of the book was based on some of her own personal experiences. While attending school, she said she often struggled to be herself and found herself torn between two worlds — much like the book’s main character Starr is throughout the book.
“The neighborhood in the books is based off the neighborhood I grew up in — Georgetown on the west side of Jackson,” she said. “So many of the people are in the book in one way or another. Those two worlds of (Starr’s) are the two worlds I know best. They’re my worlds.”
The event was planned and paid for by the Friends of the Library who also treated the students to a pizza lunch.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the kids to have a chance to listen to a New York Times best-selling author from Jackson, Mississippi,” said Head Librarian Laura Beth Walker.
Thomas’ second book, “On the Come Up,” will be released in February.
Oxford High sophomore Tyneesha Boyd said she’s looking forward to reading the new book and is a fan of “The Hate U Give.”
“I read the book and saw the movie,” she said. “I can, like, really relate to some of it. I’ve seen a lot of stuff in Oxford.”