The Hate U Give

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Date: 2018
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Topic overview
Length: 6,218 words
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Philosophical, intense, and timely, The Hate U Give (2017), the best-selling and award-winning novel by Angie Thomas, centers on the killing of an unarmed African American teenager by a white police officer. The novel is narrated by Starr, the young woman who is with the murder victim when the killing occurs. She is faced with difficult decisions about what to say to whom and when to say it as the episode causes upheaval in the community of Garden Heights and draws nationwide attention.

A problem going back to the days of Jim Crow laws and earlier, lethal police violence toward unarmed African American citizens has become a flash point in ongoing conversations and controversies surrounding race and racism in the United States in the twenty-first century. With her novel, Thomas sheds light on how racist attitudes underlie the institutional disregard for African American lives in many police departments, as the list of real-life victims in the final chapter attests. Although she never uses the term, in the trajectory of her novel and in her closing address, Thomas points to the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement in organizing the activist response to present-day injustices against African American communities. In the acknowledgments, she addresses readers “in all ‘the Gardens’ of the world: your voices matter, your dreams matter, your lives matter.” Readers should be aware that the novel contains a scene of disturbing violence, scattered mentions of sexuality, and the recurring use of explicit language.

Author Biography

Thomas was born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1988, and lived in the city's Georgetown neighborhood. Her mother was a schoolteacher. A pivotal experience came when she was playing in Aaron Henry Park as a six-year-old and two young men took out guns and started shooting at each other. As bullets whizzed around and her mother watched helplessly, the young Angie was able to escape unharmed. In response, her mother took her to the library and encouraged her to get into books, both to avoid lethal threats at the time and to find her way to a safe place in the future. Inspired to make up stories to tell her mother, by the third grade Thomas was given time every week to read her stories to her class. Thomas took her talent with words to another realm in her teenage years, becoming a locally famous rapper and being featured in the teen magazine Right On! After graduating from high school, Thomas went to Belhaven University, a Christian liberal arts school in Jackson, which put her in a situation much like the fictional Starr's. Coming from a mostly black inner-city neighborhood, she was attending a mostly white school in the suburbs and having to learn how to navigate racial differences.

Thomas earned her bachelor of fine arts degree in 2011, but before then she was moved to respond creatively to the unjust killing in 2009 of Oscar Grant, a black twenty-two-year-old who not only was unarmed but also was lying face down in a metro station in Oakland, California, with an officer's knee in his back. Thomas's initial response was a short story, and she restrained herself from expanding it because she needed to limit the scope for an assignment. After graduating, Thomas began working as a secretary for the bishop at New Horizon Church International and set the manuscript aside. She continued to write, including a children's book that she sought to have published, only to receive some sixty rejections.

Thomas returned to the Grant story in 2015, working on it during her lunch hours and winning a thousand-dollar Walter Dean Myers grant from the nonprofit organization We Need Diverse Books. (She used the award to replace her taped-together laptop computer.) The work evolved into her debut novel The Hate U Give (2017), which gained the support of an agent as soon as Thomas tweeted a question about it during an online session. Thirteen US publishing houses ultimately bid on the novel. Within four months of its publication, the book was in its thirteenth printing. It received the 2017 Boston Globe/Horn Book Award, and Publishers Weekly gave it a Flying Start award.

For her second novel—its release secured as part of the two-book deal she signed—Thomas set to work on a more autobiographical story about a Mississippi teenager finding her voice as a rapper. Thomas lives in Jackson, spending her time writing and supporting groups such as Black Lives Matter and We Need Diverse Books by mentoring youths who are interested in writing.

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Media Adaptations

  • An audiobook of The Hate U Give read by Bahni Turpin was produced in 2017 by HarperAudio. The total running time is eleven hours, forty minutes.
  • Before publication of the novel, the film rights to The Hate U Give were purchased by Fox 2000, and the project was put in motion for a fall 2018 release. The screenplay is by Audrey Wells; George Tillman Jr. is the director, and Amandla Stenberg—best known for playing Rue in The Hunger Games—is cast in the lead role.

Plot Summary

Part 1: When It Happens

Chapters 1–3

The Hate U Give opens with Starr, the narrator, walking through Big D's famous spring break party with her friend Kenya, who is feeling animosity toward Denasia, her rival. When Kenya goes off with a couple of friends, Starr runs into her friend Khalil and they catch up. Shots ring out in the packed house, and everyone flees. Khalil gives Starr a ride. The police pull over Khalil.

Starr has been taught to defer to the police, but Khalil does not immediately submit to the white officer's demand for his documents. Instead he asks why he has been stopped. The officer, with badge number One-Fifteen, takes exception to Khalil's comments, and demands he exit the vehicle for a pat-down. Finding nothing, the officer instructs Khalil to stay where he is and tells Starr not to move. As the officer returns to his car, Khalil steps back to the driver's door, opens it to ask Starr if she is okay, and is shot in the back three times. As Starr rushes out to Khalil and sees him die, the officer shouts and points his gun at her.

Other officers and medical assistance arrive, as do Starr's parents, Lisa and Maverick. Starr's parents take her home—she gets sick on the way—and she cleans up and goes to bed. Having nightmares, Starr awakens at five in the morning and recalls how her best friend, Natasha, was killed in a drive-by shooting. At breakfast, after avoiding the subject, Starr's family asks her about what has happened. That day she goes with her father, who most people call Big Mav, to his store, where they see Mr. Lewis and the regulars. Kenya arrives to talk about the previous night, and Starr gets them lunch from Reuben's. King arrives to dispense (dirty) money and ask Big Mav for a criminal favor. The two men are at odds, however, and King insists that Kenya leave with him.

Chapters 4–6

Starr wakes from another nightmare at eleven at night. Uncle Carlos is in the house talking to her parents about the police investigation into the shooting, and Starr agrees to cooperate. On Sunday morning, the family goes to Khalil's grandmother's house to offer food, consolation, and money for the funeral.

On Monday, Starr's mother drives her and Sekani to their school in the suburbs, Williamson Prep. Starr' friend Maya finds her in the hall, but Starr doesn't mention the shooting. Starr' white boyfriend, Chris, apologizes to Starr for upsetting her when they were getting intimate the day before. He wins her over by singing the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song, but when he touches her, Starr has a flashback to the white officer who killed Khalil and starts crying. But Starr still isn't ready to tell any of her friends at school about Khalil. After school, Seven, Starr, and Sekani bring Chinese food to Lisa at the clinic. While they eat, Brenda, Khalil's mother, shows up unsteadily in the waiting room, and Lisa tends to her.

Lisa takes Starr to the police station, where Uncle Carlos meets them. During the interview about the incident, the two detectives ask many questions about what might have made Khalil culpable and Starr potentially unreliable. They ask almost nothing about the officer's behavior or how the shooting actually happened. Starr leaves with little hope of seeing justice served.

Chapters 7–9

On Thursday before gym class, some boys and girls play a game of pickup basketball. Unimpressed with their peers, Starr, Hailey, and Maya step up to take on Chris and two boys. When Hailey tosses a perceptibly racist insult at Starr, Starr heads for the locker room, eventually letting the others conclude she is emotional over the anniversary of Natasha's death (denying Khalil in the process). She calls Uncle Carlos, who pulls her from school and takes her out for frozen yogurt. She mentions how officer One-Fifteen pointed his gun at her.

On Friday, the funeral takes place at Christ Temple Church, where the Carters chat with the pastor before the procession and casket viewing. Attorney April Ofrah directs people to join the funeral march past the police station. King, a gang leader, enters to place a gray King Lords bandana on Khalil. Outside, April tells Starr to call her for (implicitly pro bono) legal representation.

The Carters eat dinner at home while protests and then riots go on. News reports are mentioning an anonymous witness to the shooting; Starr regrets having told the police too little about what happened. Big Mav guards the store all night and returns at four in the morning. Later that morning, Seven takes Starr out to play basketball at Rose Park, but two Garden Disciples threaten them with knives. DeVante, a King Lord, flashes his piece to repel them. Big Mav arrives and scolds Starr and Seven for leaving the house. He drives them home and then takes Seven to the store while Lisa drives Starr and Sekani to Uncle Carlos's. Chris arrives there, but Starr is not ready to talk about everything. She can tell him only that his being white is an issue. She invites him in for food.

Chapters 10–12

On Sunday morning, Lisa has to drive through a police checkpoint to get back into Garden Heights, where Big Mav takes her to the store, stopping at a warehouse first and discoursing on African American history and identity along the way. At the store, which is closed, Big Mav lets in a nerve-wracked DeVante, who admits that he is hiding from King, who, he says, wants to punish him for refusing to get revenge on the Garden Disciples who murdered his brother (at Big D's party). DeVante wants out of gang life, and Big Mav agrees to help him. At home later, Starr wakes to hear her parents arguing. Her father has brought DeVante to their house in the interest of getting him out of town, so now her mother is insisting that the family also leave town—or she will take the kids without him.

At Williamson Prep on Monday, Remy organizes a protest purportedly seeking justice for Khalil but really to evade studies. When students interrupt English class by chanting and then marching out, Starr stays behind. In uninformed sympathy, Chris does too. All day Starr's classes are mostly empty. Going to the store after school, Starr and her siblings find a heavy media presence because police officers have been jumped and beaten nearby. In a television interview, Mr. Lewis names King as the gang leader responsible. Afterward, Big Mav chides Mr. Lewis for taking such a risk, and when their discussion grows animated, two police officers approach to question Big Mav. Learning his identity, they force him to lie prone on the pavement for a pat-down before dismissing him. Back in the store, Tim reveals that people around the neighborhood have figured out that Starr is the unnamed witness. Kenya grills Starr for not having told her. Everyone leaves, and the Carters convene in Big Mav's office.

Community tension continues to rise. With a tank up the street and a curfew looming, the Carters have pizza for dinner. Starr tends to the Tumblr blog she has set up in memory of Khalil and texts with Chris. She brings her old laptop to Seven, whose mother has kicked him out of the house. The district attorney calls to say that Starr will meet April Ofrah on Tuesday afternoon and the district attorney on Wednesday morning. When Starr asks, her mother agrees to let her skip school until then. On Tuesday, Starr and her parents go to the Just Us for Justice headquarters and meet with April. She reports that the police officer's justification for firing was his thinking that a hairbrush handle in Khalil's door was a gun. April reports that Officer Cruise's father will be interviewed on television, and Starr agrees to do her own interview. When DeVante calls from the store with an emergency, the Carters rush out.

Chapters 13–15

Mr. Lewis is beaten up in a retaliatory gang attack, but remains defiant. He relates that King said the person he really wants dead is DeVante, who he suspects is hiding with Big Mav. Realizing that DeVante must have done more than he reported to incur King's wrath, Big Mav demands a confession, and DeVante admits to stealing five thousand dollars to get his mother and sister out of town and safe. The Carters at once drive DeVante out to Uncle Carlos, who is on leave from the department. When Chris arrives and is welcomed by everyone, Big Mav starts fuming. While he and Lisa argue about Starr's having a white boyfriend and about moving out of Garden Heights, Starr and Chris talk seriously about race. Big Mav eventually storms away. While Starr and Chris are kissing, her mom walks in. Chris leaves, and Starr and DeVante chat about her boyfriend and DeVante's dead brother. DeVante informs her that Khalil was not a King Lord, that King laid the bandana on Khalil only to save face because he tried, unsuccessfully, to recruit Khalil. Also, Khalil was selling drugs only because his mother had stolen crack from King and King wanted her dead.

Starr goes to Maya's house, where they awkwardly play a basketball video game until Hailey insists they talk. Maya apologizes about the protest, but Hailey refuses to, even regarding her racist comment. Watching television, they catch the interview with Brian Cruise Sr., which leads Hailey to sympathize with the police officer. They talk more about racism and Starr's Tumblr account, and finally Hailey storms out. Starr and Maya then form a “minority alliance,” and Starr leaves. At home, she finds Uncle Carlos drinking a beer on the step and is reassured by his criticism of Officer Cruise.

In the morning, Lisa and Starr go out for breakfast and chat about the TV interview, Starr's feelings for Khalil, and her relationship with Hailey. Then they go into Garden Heights, where the rioting has receded to protesting, to find Big Mav at home burning eggs. Starr meets April at the district attorney's office at 9:30, does the interview, and gets sick. She heads to the store afterward, where her father helps her feel better and asks about Chris. King arrives to interrogate and threaten Big Mav, who lies about helping DeVante. King also intimidates Starr to dissuade her from snitching on him. For dinner, the Carters bring home food from Reuben's, and Lisa reports getting a big job interview. When Big Mav announces his intent to move the family out of Garden Heights, Lisa pulls him into the bedroom.

Part 2: Five Weeks after It

Chapters 16–19

Starr prepares for her televised interview, with her appearance before the grand jury to follow in a week. At the hotel, Starr walks through a courtyard for some approach scenes with the famous interviewer, Diane Carey, and proceeds upstairs to a suite. With her identity concealed, Starr speaks about her relationship with Khalil, “dry snitches” on King (not actually naming him), and tells what happened during the traffic stop. She concludes that if she could speak to Cruise, she would ask him if he wished he had killed her too.

The importance of the interview reverberates around the news and Garden Heights. Meanwhile Starr goes to her prom, but Chris is out of sorts. In the Rolls-Royce they have for the evening, he reveals being angry that she did not confide in him about Khalil. He recognized her voice and figure on television. Starr finally shares with Chris what it is like for her “being two different people” and only saying “certain things around certain people.” She tells Chris about the deaths of Khalil and Natasha. They make out, but Seven comes knocking on the window. After all the dancing and going out with friends afterward, Starr considers it the best night ever.

On Sunday, the Carters take a trip to their new home in Brook Falls, where the three kids claim rooms. Back at home they get ready to watch a basketball game on television but have to take cover when a brick comes through a front window and gunshots are fired into the home. They summon Uncle Carlos, but Big Mav wants nothing to do with police protection. Old associates from the Cedar Groves King Lords will protect the house. Starr refuses to participate in the grand jury interview, but Big Mav uses the Black Panthers philosophy to encourage her to speak up. She agrees to.

At breakfast, Starr finds a group of nattily dressed gang members in the kitchen and chats outside with her father and Uncle Carlos. They all drive to the courthouse, and Starr remembers her father's trial from a dozen years ago. She meets April inside and proceeds to the grand jury interview to speak the truth.

Part 3: Eight Weeks after It

Chapter 20

At school, Hailey confronts Starr for lying about knowing Khalil. They argue. Hailey says that Khalil was a drug dealer who deserved to die anyway, and Starr throws a punch. They fight, and when Remy tries to intervene, Seven barrels in to rough him up. They are all given three days' suspension. Lisa drives Starr and Seven home, and they find Big Mav mediating a gang conference to coordinate the response to the grand jury decision about indicting Office Cruise. When Big Mav sees a video of his kids fighting posted online, he is impressed.

Part 4: Ten Weeks after It

Chapter 21

A barbecue is held at Uncle Carlos's to celebrate Seven's birthday and graduation. Starr is pushed into the pool by DeVante but gets revenge on Sekani with a wedgie. Maya and Chris arrive, and soon so does Iesha, uninvited. Seven eventually explodes at her, and when she leaves, she says King will be coming after them for Starr's snitching. Layla comforts Seven, as does Starr, and they sing and have cake. Big Mav gives a speech about the meaning in all his children's names.

Part 5: The Decision—Thirteen Weeks after It

Chapters 22–24

The Carters are settling into their new home. With the grand jury decision to be announced in a few hours, Starr texts Chris, who brings her to his house. They start getting intimate, and Starr wants to go all the way, but Chris knows this is not the right time. After a nap, she wakes up to a call from Seven saying DeVante has disappeared. When Seven comes to pick up Starr, Kenya is telling him over the phone that DeVante is with her back in Garden Heights. The three drive to Iesha's house, where King Lords are lounging in the backyard. Upstairs they find a beaten DeVante, whose life is in danger. When Iesha comes in and finds them all, she derides them and orders DeVante, Starr, and everyone else out, including her daughters. Starr realizes that Iesha wants them to escape and has distracted King so that they can. Seven wants to go back to help his mother, but the others persuade him to drive on. On the radio, the deejay announces the grand jury's decision not to indict Cruise.

After taking Kenya and Lyric to Iesha's mother's house, Seven, DeVante, Starr, and Chris head out to Magnolia Avenue to protest. They find a crowd that has surrounded a police car, which they smash, flip over, and torch. Then people start looting the surrounding stores. As police move in, the four go back to Seven's car to head for the store. Repeatedly meeting roadblocks, they drive around through the East Side (Garden Disciples territory), discoursing with Chris about race along the way.

The car runs out of gas. At first Seven and Chris push it, but then they leave it alongside the road and leave to get fuel. Smoke has started to fill the air, and on Carnation (the site of Khalil's murder), they find April with a bullhorn leading a protest. When she sees Starr, who wants to help, April gives her the bullhorn. Starr is hoisted atop a police car, where she starts to give a stirring speech. When the police launch a tear gas canister toward her, she jumps down and throws it back at the police, and it explodes. More canisters explode, and gas fills the air, leaving everyone stricken. Goon comes by in a truck, picking up people, including a cameraman and news anchor, who briefly interviews Starr, and brings them all to the store, but Big Mav is not there. They douse themselves with milk to counteract the tear gas. While Starr finally starts receiving messages from her mother, a Molotov cocktail is tossed into the store and engulfs the entrance in flames.

Chapters 25–26

Unable to pass through the flames to the front, Starr, Chris, DeVante, and Seven try to escape through the back, but the door is locked. Mr. Lewis eventually notices the fire inside and calls for help, and people come to the back door, which Big Mav unlocks to let them out. On the street, a crowd has gathered along with police officers and firefighters while King and his men look on. Big Mav directly accuses King to the police, and when several others confirm witnessing the arson, King and his men are arrested. Finally accepting Chris's presence, Big Mav insists he join him at the boxing gym. Talking with Uncle Carlos, DeVante volunteers to tell the police where King's stash is to help keep him in jail.

After sleeping in at home, Starr talks to April Ofrah on the phone and then responds to texts from friends. Her brief speech has been aired on the news, and a photo of her throwing the gas canister appears on the front page of the newspaper. The Carters go to the store to meet an insurance agent and clean up, getting help from many people in the neighborhood. Determined to retire, Mr. Lewis offers Big Mav his damaged barber shop for rebuilding and expanding the store. Starr ends her narrative by eulogizing Khalil and the many others who have lost their lives to excessive police violence and by promising to continue to make a difference.


Denasia Allen

Denasia is Kenya's rival for DeVante's attention. She is the object of Kenya's glares at Big D's party.

Big D

Big D throws a renowned party every year during spring break.

Big Mav

See Maverick Carter

Chris Bryant

Chris is Starr's boyfriend, a white classmate at Williamson Prep. Musically inclined, he mixes his own hip-hop beats and is bold enough to sing the Fresh Prince theme song over the mic at their prom. Though Starr's father is skeptical about him for being white, Chris clearly loves Starr and has the best of intentions in their relationship. Chris lives up the street from Uncle Carlos, and his braving the riots in Garden Heights makes an especially good impression on Big Mav.

Diane Carey

Diane Carey is the television news reporter who interviews Starr.

Uncle Carlos

When Starr is three to six years old, Uncle Carlos (her mother's brother) is her only father figure while Maverick is incarcerated for a weapons charge. Carlos has a special place in Starr's heart and for that reason has been the target of animosity from the jealous Maverick. Carlos is a police officer, and his integrity shows that the lethally unprofessional actions of certain officers do not reflect the ethos of all officers. Having seen bruises on his knuckles and heard about intradepartmental fighting over the shooting, Starr realizes that Carlos must have punched Cruise (aka One-Fifteen). Carlos confirms that he told Cruise his actions were reprehensible and unworthy of a police officer. Carlos's willingness to give DeVante a temporary home further shows his commitment to his family and the community.

Lisa Janae Carter

Lisa, Starr's mother, has found time for college and a nursing career while raising Starr and Sekani, receiving help with childcare mainly from Uncle Carlos and Ms. Rosalie. Her desire to get the family out of dangerous Garden Heights creates tension with Maverick, who thinks that moving means abandoning their African American community. But when gang life seeps back into Big Mav's life and Lisa is in line for a well-paid managerial position, her husband at last comes around to her perspective. Lisa's generosity as a mother is reflected in her welcoming of Seven, Big Mav's son with Iesha, even though Iesha's presence causes marital tension. Lisa's new six-figure salary may make her the primary breadwinner in the Carter family.

Maverick Carter

Big Mav, as he is called by everyone but his family and a few others, is Starr's father. In his younger years, he was immersed in gang life with the King Lords. When he takes the heat from a bust and spends several years in prison—on a weapons charge that he accepted to save King from having to serve a far longer term after previous offenses—he uses the leverage gained to opt out of gang life. His wayward years are not entirely behind him when, despite already being with Lisa, he fathers a child, Seven, with Iesha. Lisa stays with him over her mother's objections. Because of his family and his devotion to the Black Panthers and their Ten-Point Program and to the ideology of Malcolm X, Big Mav becomes the owner of Carter's Grocery and one of the most upstanding members of his community. He offers Starr love and support as a father and encourages her to speak her mind, which he knows will bring her fulfillment and a sense of closure after all the trauma.

Sekani Carter

Sekani is Starr's little brother. He helps keep her grounded by generally acting like an ordinary pesky little brother while she copes with Khalil's death and the aftermath.

Starr Carter

Starr, called Munch by her mother, is the protagonist of the novel. She is a sixteen-year-old African American who witnesses the police shooting of her longtime friend Khalil. When Starr is three, her father is sent to prison, and Uncle Carlos becomes a father figure in her life. But Starr's primary love for her father is apparent throughout the novel as Big Mav proves to be an essential resource emotionally, physically, and intellectually. Her position as the witness to the shooting is rendered more uncertain by her being somewhat withdrawn from the African American community in Garden Heights because she goes to a mostly white suburban school. This causes people who do not know her well to presume that she is abandoning or indifferent to her community. This is far from the truth. Starr does need to gain self-confidence to find her voice and speak up on behalf of Khalil, as she gradually does over the course of the novel. Her rising to the position of public speaker and frontline demonstrator cements her self-understanding and her commitment to joining the continuing communal effort.

Brian Cruise Jr.

Cruise—sometimes referred to by his badge number, One-Fifteen—is the police officer who shoots Khalil. His character is not fully explored in the novel, reflecting how killers in uniform are often shielded from excessive public exposure. The reader can easily conclude, nevertheless, that Cruise is disproportionately fearful of the sixteen-year-old Khalil, undoubtedly largely because he is black; he interprets Khalil's demeanor as aggressive, when it is no more insubordinate than that of any typical teenager; and he proves his incompetence by shooting in the back a young man who has not even reached for the object that Cruise wrongly assumes is a weapon.

Brian Cruise Sr.

The airing of Officer Cruise's father's interview shows how police officers who have wrongfully killed people can be depicted by their family and defenders as victims, potentially swaying public opinion in their favor.


Dalvin, DeVante's brother, is killed by Garden Disciples at Big D's party.


DeVante is a friend of Seven's. He protects Seven and Starr when two Garden Disciples threaten them at a park claimed as King Lord territory. When he later shows up at Big Mav's store looking nerve-wracked, he reveals a desire to escape gang life. When Big Mav realizes that he not only refuses to commit murder to exact vengeance for Dalvin's killing but also has stolen money from King, DeVante is brought to Uncle Carlos's house. There, DeVante settles in, becomes friends with Chris, and braids Uncle Carlos's daughter's doll's hair for her, showing his acclimatization to family life. DeVante gets into trouble by leaving on his own to visit Dalvin in the Garden Heights cemetery. Before he can catch the bus back, King Lords jump him, and while held in King and Iesha's house, he seems slated for execution. He escapes, agrees to help send King to jail by informing on him, and will stay at Uncle Carlos's for another year in order to graduate from high school.


Goon is the Cedar Grove King Lord who coordinates gang member assistance for the Carter family after their house is shot up. He uses his truck to rescue people on the night of the grand jury decision.

Hailey Grant

Hailey is a longtime friend of Starr's, having bonded with her when Starr lost Natasha and Hailey lost her mother to cancer. Yet the blonde Hailey is the sort of insistent social leader who is manipulative. She is also so egotistical that, convinced of the propriety of whatever she says or does, she simply cannot absorb Starr and Maya's criticisms about her racist comments and attitude. Hailey's pigheadedness finally provokes Starr to abandon their friendship.

Brenda Harris

Brenda is Khalil's mother but is not in his life because of her crack addiction. Her family does not always know her whereabouts. After Khalil's death, she shows up at the clinic where Lisa works, needing support.

Cameron Harris

Cameron is Khalil's little brother. His countenance has earned him the nickname Chipmunk.

Khalil Harris

A friend of Starr's since they were very young and both went to Ms. Rosalie for childcare, Khalil has retained a very strong connection with Starr, though they have not seen each other for months when the novel opens. Starr is disappointed when she realizes, from Khalil's uncharacteristic bling, that he must be dealing drugs. While Starr consciously recalls instructions about interacting with police when they are pulled over, Khalil seems to have never received such advice, his mother being an addict and his father absent and possibly unknown. Khalil's failure to perfectly comply with the officer's orders absurdly and tragically leads to his being shot in the back. It turns out that Khalil was not a King Lord but did deal drugs in the hope of preserving the life of his wayward mother, Brenda.

Tammy Harris

Tammy, Khalil's aunt and Brenda's sister, was Lisa's best friend while growing up. Tammy lives in New York but returns to Garden Heights for Khalil's funeral.


Iesha is the partner of King, with whom she has two daughters, Kenya and Lyric. She also has a son, Seven, with Big Mav, though they were in their respective long-term relationships when Seven was conceived. Iesha has been a largely absent mother to Seven, never appearing at his important life events and even letting King insist that Seven be kicked out of the house once King and Big Mav start bickering. Iesha's saving grace is that she helps DeVante and Starr escape King's wrath, even knowing that she will be beaten for allowing it.


A basketball player at Williamson Prep whose pixie haircut Starr admires—and whose habit of resting her head on Starr's shoulder suggests same-sex attraction—Jess is one of the few who decline to participate in the sham protest.


Kenya, who has supermodel looks, is Iesha's older daughter and one of Starr's few close friends in Garden Heights.


King, the head of the King Lords in Garden Heights, was practically initiated into the gang at birth in being given his name. His ruthlessness toward those who cross him and his indifference to the consequences of the drugs he sells to people like Brenda make him a villain of different dimensions from the white police officer who murders Khalil. The father of Kenya and Lyric, King has been abusive to Seven, Iesha's son with Maverick. Despite all his intimidation, King gets his comeuppance when Big Mav and his neighbors claim—truthfully or not—that they witnessed him torching Carter's Grocery.


Layla is Seven's devoted girlfriend.

Mr. Lewis

Mr. Lewis, the old-school owner of the barber shop next to Carter's Grocery, prefers the pacifist Dr. Martin Luther King to the more assertive Black Panthers. But he shows his own activist spark when he names the gang leader King during a live interview, and even after being physically punished for it, he remains vocally defiant. He often criticizes Big Mav for not following the ways of the store's more straight-laced previous owner, Mr. Wyatt, but Mr. Lewis's support of Big Mav and the community is made clear by his gesture of offering his shop to Maverick.


Lyric is Kenya's little sister, the second daughter of Iesha and King.

Nana Adele Montgomery

Adele, the cantankerous mother of Lisa and Carlos, lives with Carlos, having given her Garden Heights home to Lisa's family.


Natasha is Starr's best friend from childhood in Garden Heights. She was killed at ten years old in a gang-related shooting while she was playing in the spray of a fire hydrant. Starr witnesses the murder, which causes her parents to send her and her sibling to school at Williamson Prep, an hour or so outside the inner city.

News Anchor

The national news anchor, whose name Starr thinks may be Brian, and his cameraman are among those Goon rescues during the rioting after the grand jury decision. They conduct a brief interview with her.

April Ofrah

An attorney and coordinator for Just Us for Justice, Ofrah helps Starr through the interviews with the district attorney and the grand jury. She also prods Starr just enough to pick up the megaphone to help spur the rally after the announcement of the grand jury decision. Starr's attitude at the close of the novel suggests that she may intend to follow in Ofrah's footsteps.


See Brian Cruise Jr.

Aunt Pam

Pam is Uncle Carlos's wife. They have two children, Ava and Daniel.


The leader of the sham protest, Remy is Hailey's brother, so Hailey staunchly defends the rationale behind it. When Remy tries to intercede in Hailey and Starr's fight, Seven punches him.

Mr. Reuben

Mr. Reuben owns a restaurant on Marigold Avenue.

Ms. Rosalie

Ms. Rosalie is Khalil's grandmother. She helps raise not only Khalil (his mother, Brenda, being a crack addict) but also Starr and Sekani while their mother pursues a college degree. Ms. Rosalie is undergoing chemotherapy. Out of continuing gratitude for her help, Big Mav gives Ms. Rosalie a wad of cash to help pay for Khalil's funeral and promises to help raise more.


The son of Maverick and Iesha, the dreadlocked Seven is a tech wizard who works at Best Buy and fixes laptops for cash on the side. His mother kicks him out of the house at King's behest, and he moves in with the Carters. To protect his half sisters, whom he thinks King may abuse, Seven decides to go to a local community college, but Big Mav insists that he go where he wants to for himself instead of sticking around to do his mother's job. Seven has a strong, supportive relationship with Starr.


Tim is the nephew of Mr. Reuben, the local restaurateur. He is a reliable presence around the neighborhood, appearing multiple times at Big Mav's store to offer help and support. That he is a Garden Disciple—and theoretically ought to remain Big Mav's enemy—shows how people are Tim's first priority. Tim presumably helps Big Mav convene the intergang conference.

Mr. Wyatt

Wyatt is the former owner of Big Mav's store.

Maya Yang

Maya, who is Chinese American and Starr's basketball teammate, is one of Starr's closest friends. Unlike Hailey, she recognizes the validity of Starr's feelings about the protest and comes around to her point of view. Through her minority alliance with Starr, she finally gets the courage to stand up to Hailey.

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Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|NRNNKD758498347