Martin The Hate U Give, came out in October 2017. by Angie Thomas, came out in February 2017. [At] the releases, there were a number of [high-profile] deaths involving Black people. Here we are again, in 2020. I’m disappointed that it is relevant again. I want to know how you are feeling, Kim: Not only do you tackle racism and notions of police brutality, but you are also looking into the flaws in our criminal-justice system. I started writing it at the moment Eric Garner [died] six years ago. I have a 13-year-old and a 6-year-old. My [older child], he saw the video and was like, “Why are they doing that?” But even Eric Garner, that didn’t wake people up. Some of the stuff that I was writing then, I felt people were going to critique—“That’s not realistic, there’s no KKK anymore, white supremacy is not connected to the police system.” Things people would think were outlandish, but that I knew were truth, are now truth. It’s so sickening. I want my book in classrooms now, with and so students are exposed to it and can unpack those things. I talk a lot about not being exposed to books that [reflected] me in them when I was younger. When I was exposed to AfricanAmerican characters in books, they were always suffering in some way. Now, five [of my] novels are out in the world. The one that sells the best is about racism, where a Black kid dies. I cannot express how painful that is, because it’s so important that we witness each other just being human. Did you feel pressure to write this type of book? This is the book I wanted to write. I needed to do But when I went on my submission round, one editor said that she was going to pass because it wasn’t going to be bigger than Can you imagine that the biggest, top-selling book that sold millions of copies is the standard for a Black writer? Is that the expectation they will always hold for a Black writer? An editor [I know of ] wanted to enter the auction for This is back when he was at Simon & Schuster. But [he revealed] a person in a position of authority basically said, “Black kids don’t read, so we’re not entering this auction.” That is a thing that just— sorry. As a kid who, at 12, was obsessed with Michael Crichton, to have my entire identity erased by an industry that I am now expected to come into and help fix? It’s so painful. People, especially white people, are less interested in books about Black kids falling in love or saving the day, Black kids interacting and engaging in time travel or going into space. They don’t want to read the books where we are actual people. Focusing solely on Black pain is problematic. My issue actually is in pushing back with publishing, pushing back with schools, pushing back with readers. There should be an entire ecosystem in the world of books around Black experiences, because there is one for white books: for fairies, dragons, vampires, werewolves. I’m glad you’re writing what you write. I can’t wait to see it in everybody’s car and on everybody’s bookshelf. I’m thankful we [can] both thrive in our career paths, but it’s also very bittersweet. That needs to be acknowledged. I think of readers like me. I read all kinds of crime books as a kid. Nancy Drew was my jam! Let me be the next version of her. The Hate U FICTION REVIEWS Give. [Crying] JOHNSON DEATH IN HER HANDS THE LIGHTNESS OTTESSA MOSHFEGH 272 EMILY TEMPLE 288 AUTHOR AUTHOR PAGES PAGES An elderly widow finds a cryptic note about a dead girl in the woods near her home, but “no body. No bloodstain. No tangle of hair caught on the coarse fallen branches.” If a murder mystery sounds far too straightforward for a writer as masterfully strange as Ottessa Moshfegh Cool, dark, and pretty as a clear night sky, delivers a coming-of-age suspense tale that starts out familiar—ominous warnings, unreliable narration—before forging its own path. With great momentum, debut novelist Emily Temple follows Olivia, a 15-year-old who begins to find herself after her father goes missing. She rushes off to the Buddhist retreat where he was last seen (feigning interest in its summer camp for teen girls), only to fall into a cultlike clique that turns sinister. Attempts at flourish (dictionary definitions, theological musings) break the prose’s flow, but they’re also playful—further proof that Temple is just getting started. JOHNSON Lightness Dear Martin The Hate U Give, STONE STONE (My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Eileen), Death JOHNSON it is; what delivers instead is a sort of fractured portrait of madness, a woman slowly unraveling in the corners of her own mind. Without stakes in any realworld outcome, though, it’s hard not to feel cornered, too; caught up in an intellectual exercise unworthy of Moshfegh’s prodigious talents. JOHNSON This Is My America. The Hate U Give. I WANT MAGICAL STORIES, THOSE LOVE STORIES ABOUT BLACK PEOPLE, TO BE READ BY WHITE PEOPLE.” B– B+ STONE —LEAH GREENBLATT —DAVID CANFIELD KIM JOHNSON JULY 2020 EW ● COM 79
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