One high school’s summer reading list has reportedly caught the attention of police in South Carolina. Angie Thomas‘ book, The Hate U Give has been flagged by a trade union that said teens at Wando High School, just north of Charleston, shouldn’t be reading it.
Thomas’ young-adult novel has already won critical acclaim, prompting 20th Century Fox to do a movie adaptation with rapper Common and Issa Rae coming to theaters on October 19. Inspired by Black Lives Matter, the story spotlights the horrific reality of police brutality and the piecemeal healing of a community after a fatal shooting. How the powerful New York Times bestselling book — along with All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely which also deals with racial tensions— have ended up at the center of debate in the Wando High School community appears to not be a matter of the narratives’ cultural significance but of personal preferences.
A police union wants the books removed from Wando’s reading list and is trying to argue that the books promote a “distrust of police.” There are other “socio-economic” topics to read about, John Blackmon, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Tri-County Lodge #3 which represents local, state, and federal law enforcement officers in Charleston and Colleton counties, said to local source News 2.
Parents have also reportedly expressed opposition to the two books, according to the news outlet. A committee will review the complaints and hear from an opposing parent as well as the teacher who suggested the books be on the list.
It’s important to note that South Carolina has been dealing with heightened racial tensions in recent years. Ex-police officer Michael Slager was sentenced to 20 years in prison last December for killing Walter Scott, an unarmed African American motorist, during a traffic stop in 2015. Before that sentencing, the horrific mass shooting of nine Black worshippers at Charleston’s Emanuel AME church by self-avowed White supremacist and mass murderer Dylann Roof in June 2015 had sent waves of pain throughout the nation.
Students actually have the option of choosing one of the five options from the book list including Thomas as well as Reynolds and Kiely’s books. The other books on the list are the sci-fi story 23 Minutes by Vivian Vande Velde, fantasy story Going Bovine by Libba Bray and another young-adult novel Love Letters To The Dead by Ava Dellaira.