Welcome to The books that shaped me - a Good Housekeeping series in which authors talk us through the reads that stand out for them. This week, we're hearing from Angie Thomas, whose debut novel The Hate U Give launched straight onto the New York Times bestseller list, sold over 170,000 copies in the UK and was adapted into a film. Her second novel On The Come Up was inspired by her time as a teen rapper, and is also a New York Times bestseller, with film rights acquired by Paramount and Angie on board as a producer.
How have books impacted your life?
It’s not an exaggeration to say that books changed my life. The moment I received my first library card was the moment I unlocked worlds unlike my own, allowing me to see beyond my circumstances. More importantly, they sparked my imagination. I wouldn’t be a writer if I weren’t a reader first. Here are some of the books that made the greatest impact on me.
The childhood book that's stayed with you...
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor was the first book I saw myself in. It follows a nine-year-old girl, Cassie Logan, who lives in Mississippi with her family during the Great Depression. As the Logan family faces racism and poverty, Cassie remains a strong force on the page who spoke to me in a way nobody else could. As a Black girl in Mississippi, she showed me that I too could be the hero of the story.
Your favourite book of all time...
The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I first read this book while attending a mostly-white, upper-class, private Christian university. As you may have guessed, it wasn’t assigned reading. I was the only Black student in my creative writing programme, and I was still trying to find my voice when it came to social justice. This book lit the spark inside of me and awakened me with force. Detailing Malcolm’s life from childhood to adulthood, it isn’t just his story but the story of America itself without any holds barred. I wouldn’t be the person I am now without it.
The book you wish you'd written...
The Harry Potter series. This probably seems like a cliché response; however I don’t wish that I wrote them because of the financial success but because of how they connected with young readers. They helped me escape when I needed it most. But I do wonder what it would be like if those books had a Black girl as the main character; what it would’ve meant for me and other Black kids; what it would’ve meant for non-Black kids to see people like us as heroes. I’m now writing my own fantasy book with that in mind.
The book you wish everyone would read...
How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. I think the title gives you an idea of why I want everyone to read this book. Racism is alive and well, both in America and abroad. Simply being a non-racist is not enough, we must be actively anti-racist. This book by Dr. Kendi has been called the most courageous book on racism to date, and rightfully so. It should be essential reading in every household.
Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas is out now.
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