Change Needs Action

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, follows Starr as she navigates life—at home and at high school—after witnessing the murder of her friend Khalil, finding that every facet of her life is informed through race.

When her dad asks her to explain the significance of the phrase “The Hate U Give Little Infants F—s Everybody” (the meaning that Tupac gave to the term “Thug Life” and the source from which the title of Thomas’s novel takes its name), Starr responds that the phrase is about “us.” With her dad’s promptings, Starr expands upon this idea:

“Black people, minorities, poor people. Everybody at the bottom of the society. […] We’re the ones who get the short end of the stick, but we’re the ones they fear the most. That’s why the government targeted Black Panthers, right? Because they were scared of the Panthers?”1

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  1. Thomas, Angie. The Hate U Give. New York, Balzer Bray, 2017, p. 168.

Race, Racism, Privilege & the Weight of Mistakes

In All American Boys, “the talk” is referenced a number of times throughout the book. As instructions relayed from parents to their sons, it’s not the sex talk (a staple of so many other YA novels) that weighs on the young men in Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely’s coauthored work. Instead, “the talk” turns out to be guidelines for how young black men are told to respond when confronted by a cop.1 Yet, despite following the instructions his parents laid out for him, Rashad, who narrates half of All American Boys, becomes the victim of police brutality.

YA literature is often described as gateway texts that offer younger readers an entrance to critical engagement with a written work, yet scholarship in this field rarely takes advantage of the opportunities they have so conveniently identified.2 Commentary by the authors of these YA novels, however, often provide the first vital steps into this discussion.

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  1. Reynolds, Jason, and Brendan Kiely. All American Boys. New York, 2015. p.  289.
  2. For more, see Glasgow, Jacqueline N. “Teaching Social Justice through Young Adult Literature.” The English Journal, vol. 90, no. 6, 2001, pp. 54–61. JSTOR, JSTOR,

A Note on This Course & This Blog

“Young Adult Literature & Social Justice as Pedagogy” is an independent study designed with two overarching objectives in mind. The first is as an introduction to the field of YA literature and the concerns, issues, and characteristics that define and shape this genre.

The second objective is of a narrower aim: to explore a selection of social-justice themed YA novels. Within this latter objective, the course targets the intersections of YA novels and/as activism, social justice and/as pedagogy. This survey’s specific emphasis on LGBT issues will provide even more opportunities for in-depth analysis (regarding changes in approaches to social justice, for example).

The posts on this blog will respond to the primary texts, using them as a platform by which to engage with supplemental readings.