Angie Thomas

Portrait Angie Thomas
© Hartwig Klappert

Angie Thomas was born in 1988 and grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. At an early age she witnessed drug dealing and gun crime first-hand and found salvation/refuge in books. »When I was six, I was at the park, and two drug dealers decided to recreate the wild west with a shootout, I ended up running out of the crossfire, and, the very next day, my mom took me to the library, because she wanted me to see that there was more to the world than what I saw that day«, Angie Thomas remembered in an interview with »The Guardian«. She made a name for herself as a teen rapper, making it into »Right-On!« (a teen magazine featuring African-American celebrities), and went on to study creative writing at Belhaven University.

Thomas wrote her debut »The Hate U Give« (2017) in reaction to the killing of Oscar Grant, an unarmed, 22-year-old African-American man, by a white policeman in 2009, and the resulting protests and debates that followed in its wake. What originally began as a short story grew into a novel, as shootings of unarmed young black men continued. Although previous attempts to find an agent for her work had come to nothing, help Thomas received from a charitable organization allowed her to publish »The Hate U Give«. It tells of 16-year-old Starr, who lives in two worlds: her life in a socially deprived neighbourhood with her parents, who try to shield her from the outside world, and the private, predominantly white school she goes to where she is one of a few black kids. One night her best friend Khalil is shot fatally by a police officer – even though he is unarmed. Once the incident is made public, general opinion is divided – one side thinks he was innocent and take to the streets, the other side believes Khalil was a gang member. Starr and her family are put under pressure by the police; she knows what happened that night, but is aware that testifying will put her in mortal danger. In America Angie Thomas’ debut was a resounding success among critics and readers, and made it straight to the top of the The New York Times bestseller list. It was praised in particular for its topicality regarding the current political and social situation in the US.

Angie Thomas lives in Jackson, Mississippi.