Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give, is back with a prequel Concrete Rose, a compelling story of Black fatherhood and youth.
Thomas says that while she had no plans to revisit characters like Maverick from The Hate U Give, it was her readers who led her to write its prequel.
“So many of them wanted to know more about Starr’s dad, Maverick, which is fascinating since we’re talking about a young adult novel, and the parents aren’t usually at the forefront of anybody’s mind,” said Thomas.
The Hate U Give, released in 2017, follows the story of 16-year-old Starr as she navigates the trauma of witnessing her friend’s murder at the hands of police and the protests that follow.
Many people had questions about how Maverick came to be the leader he is, she said.
Additionally, she says readers have been drawn to Maverick’s character because of his strength and authenticity.
While he is a leader to his family and community, he has also had a difficult past as a drug dealer and has been incarcerated.
“For a lot of people, these aren’t things that they associate with a great father, husband, pillar of community. So, I think that’s what really fascinated so many of my readers about the character, that he’s someone that they didn’t know existed,” she said.
‘As a creative, I have power to change perspective’
For Thomas, a goal of hers was to use Maverick’s character to humanize Black men and boys, who are often dehumanized and frequently portrayed or seen as emotionless and as threats, she said.
She adds that she wanted to show his character with vulnerability and emotions.
“We see the dehumanization of Black boys and Black men every time we see another Black man lose his life at the hands of police brutality,” she said.
“I know as a creative, I have power to change perspective, to change hearts, to change minds.”
The violent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor last year have led to renewed and ongoing calls to fight anti-Black racism. They also sparked numerous protests against police brutality here and around the world.
Thomas, who was working on Concrete Rose during that time, says it heavily impacted her writing. She adds that this book was set in the 90s.
“The only difference was that we didn’t have video cameras like we do now,” she said. “I’ve watched the George Floyd tapes and I cried excessively, and I could not help but think that they are not humanizing this man, they are not seeing him as a human being.”
Thomas says these days it’s easier to associate a mugshot of a person and a monster but it is harder to consider the circumstances that put them in that position, who they were as a child and the people who love them.
“I want more of us to take a moment and consider others and their situations before we make judgments.”
Watch Thomas’s full interview with ‘The Morning Show’ in the video above.