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Category: Leah’s Book Reviews

The Hate U Give

A National Book Award Longlist title with eight starred reviews! #1 New York Times Bestseller!”Absolutely riveting!” —Jason Reynolds”Stunning.” —John Green”This story is necessary. This story is important.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)”Heartbreakingly topical.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)”A marvel of verisimilitude.” —Booklist (starred review)”A powerful, in-your-face novel.” —The Horn Book (starred review)Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life…

Description

A National Book Award Longlist title with eight starred reviews! #1 New York Times Bestseller!

"Absolutely riveting!" —Jason Reynolds

"Stunning." —John Green

"This story is necessary. This story is important." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Heartbreakingly topical." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A marvel of verisimilitude." —Booklist (starred review)

"A powerful, in-your-face novel." —The Horn Book (starred review)

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Notes
The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas' debut young adult bestseller, is a cry for change, a plea to be seen, and an absolutely heartfelt, accessible and take-no-prisoners story that drops its reader right into the middle of the front page news. What amazes me about Angie Thomas' writing is the deft, honest way she writes her characters--the ones on both sides of the narrative's conflict as well as all those mired in the crosshairs--so that each one can be understood on an empathetic level. The reader finds herself rooting for the ex-gang member, laughing at the upper crust boyfriend, cringing at the offhand remarks of a would-be friend. Thomas plays out both sides of the story for the reader--all perspectives on an issue that so desperately needs to be addressed from the very inside out as witnessed by the teenaged Starr Carter, an idealistic, bruised, wise and funny character drawn so realistically she could've sat in any of my classrooms when I taught high school. I was afraid to read this book because I knew it would be powerful. I am so glad I read this book solely because of its power--and that is all because of Thomas's remarkable way to bring the reader into the very world she's trying to show us.

Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship

From the publisher:

In a moving example of unconditional love in dif­ficult times, the Jesuit priest and bestselling author of Tattoos on the Heart, Gregory Boyle, shares what three decades of working with gang members in Los Angeles has taught him about faith, compassion, and the enduring power of kinship.

In his first book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, Gregory Boyle introduced us to Homeboy Industries, the largest gang-intervention program in the world. Critics hailed that book as an “astounding literary and spiritual feat” (Publishers Weekly) that is “destined to become a classic of both urban reportage and contemporary spirituality” (Los Angeles Times). Now, after the suc­cessful expansion of Homeboy Industries, Boyle returns with Barking to the Choir to reveal how com­passion is transforming the lives of gang members.

In a nation deeply divided and plagued by poverty and violence, Barking to the Choir offers a snapshot into the challenges and joys of life on the margins. Sergio, arrested at nine, in a gang by twelve, and serving time shortly thereafter, now works with the substance-abuse team at Homeboy to help others find sobriety…

Description
“This is a beautiful and important and soul-transporting book. . . . Please read it.” —Elizabeth Gilbert

“If you’re in the market for genuine inspiration, I urge you to read Barking to the Choir.” —Ann Patchett

In a moving example of unconditional love in dif­ficult times, the Jesuit priest and bestselling author of Tattoos on the Heart, Gregory Boyle, shares what three decades of working with gang members in Los Angeles has taught him about faith, compassion, and the enduring power of kinship.

In his first book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, Gregory Boyle introduced us to Homeboy Industries, the largest gang-intervention program in the world. Critics hailed that book as an “astounding literary and spiritual feat” (Publishers Weekly) that is “destined to become a classic of both urban reportage and contemporary spirituality” (Los Angeles Times). Now, after the suc­cessful expansion of Homeboy Industries, Boyle returns with Barking to the Choir to reveal how com­passion is transforming the lives of gang members.

In a nation deeply divided and plagued by poverty and violence, Barking to the Choir offers a snapshot into the challenges and joys of life on the margins. Sergio, arrested at nine, in a gang by twelve, and serving time shortly thereafter, now works with the substance-abuse team at Homeboy to help others find sobriety. Jamal, abandoned by his family when he tried to attend school at age seven, gradually finds forgive­ness for his schizophrenic mother. New father Cuco, who never knew his own dad, thinks of a daily adventure on which to take his four-year-old son. These former gang members uplift the soul and reveal how bright life can be when filled with unconditional love and kindness.

This book is guaranteed to shake up our ideas about God and about people with a glimpse at a world defined by more compassion and fewer barriers. Gently and humorously, Barking to the Choir invites us to find kinship with one another and reconvinces us all of our own goodness.
Notes
I really enjoyed Father Greg Boyle's first book, TATTOOS ON THE HEART, but it seems now that Boyle reread his own first manuscript and thought, "Nah. Hold my beer." BARKING TO THE CHOIR may very well be the best book I'll read in 2018, and it's only the first. Filled with anecdotes and personal insight, Father Boyle, a Jesuit priest in Los Angeles and one of my personal heroes, writes about the way reaching to the margins and building community truly helps us save ourselves. Boyle founded Homeboy Industries, the largest and most successful gang intervention, rehabilitation and reentry program in the country, and writes about his experiences with the people within the program with absolute grace, humility and humor. Boyle is funny, self-deprecating, and at times surprising, and delivers messages so fiercely and quickly that I found myself carrying a pencil with me as I read. By the end of my reading, the manuscript was so marked up with underlines and notes in the margins it looked like a college textbook. This is a good thing. Boyle speaks of belonging to each other, of the importance of reaching beyond ourselves, and of getting with the "original program" of Christianity as recently urged by Pope Francis. But this isn't a book only for Christians, Catholic or otherwise. He references the Buddha, the Dalai Lama, and countless other leaders as examples of how the "original program" (i.e., "we belong to each other") is a universal truth. His essays bring the realities of extreme poverty, the cycles of abuse, and the reality of desperation into everyday life through the words of the gang members he mentors. TATTOOS ON THE HEART was good. But BARKING TO THE CHOIR may be the book I reread to begin each new year. Read this book. I do not say this lightly: it may very well change the way you live your life.