Freshmen at Central College in Pella are being required to read the book “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. The book is described as being inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. It “addresses” issues of racism and police violence with “intelligence, heart and unflinching honesty.”
According to a description of the book available at an online library, a 16-year-old lives in a poor neighborhood but attends a fancy prep school in a suburb. The character witnesses a fatal shooting of her best friend “at the hands of a police officer.” Her best friend was “unarmed.”
One parent who contacted The Iowa Standard said their child selected Central thinking they’d be in a “Christian town” and college that offered religious studies — meaning Central would be more conservative than a lot of other choices.
“However, in the first 10 minutes of orientation, the curriculum director announced mandatory reading before classes start,” the parent said.
According to Spark Notes, The Hate U Give is about a teen girl who grapples with racism, police brutality and activism after witnessing her black friend murdered by the police.”
Brian Peterson, associate Dean for Curriculum and Faculty Development, assigned the book. Peterson is on Twitter, but has his account protected so only approved followers can see what he tweets.
Another parent told The Iowa Standard “everyone has to read it,” according to their child who attends Central.
One review of the book calls it a “missed opportunity” to present a book that challenges misconceptions ON BOTH SIDES.
“This book was completely biased and 100 percent anti-police,” the reviewer wrote.
“For instance, the fictional victim and his friend have to quickly leave a party where someone is murdered during a fight. This is the neighborhood at the center of the story. It is extremely dangerous. The characters in the book don’t ever consider or discuss any police in the area that night are likely aware a shooting has just taken place at a party and are probably on edge.
“The victim was a drug dealer and was affiliated with active gangs at a minimum. This is later downplayed with a story about how he was only doing it to help his mom. Once pulled over, the victim was evasive and refused to answer basic, standard questions not unusual during a traffic stop. He was asked to step out of his vehicle and did not immediately comply before being pulled from the vehicle.
“It was night, the victim opened the car door and was leaning back inside while the policeman returned to his vehicle to check the ID. The policeman then overreacted and shot him multiple times.
“The policeman overreacted. Yes,” the reviewer wrote. “I think most people will agree with this. The problem I have with the book is the level to which he was proclaimed a Murderer with a capital M. The author doesn’t understand what murder means. His overreaction is totally apparent in HINDSIGHT only. What was he thinking in the moment when he had a split second to react?
“We establish that the neighborhood is unbelievably dangerous. We also establish that the victim did not deserve to die at any level. But we should also say that a police officer during a traffic stop doesn’t know a person’s intentions. A police officer doesn’t know who is in the car, doesn’t know what they are going to do.
“I was hoping for a book that would challenge preconceived notions on both sides. Total failure. At best, this is a book that should just be ignored. At worst, it is dangerous and furthers a broken mindset where police are the enemy. The central character is a hero at the end for throwing tear gas at the police. The police that are in her neighborhood are trying to stop rioters from burning down businesses. Nothing in this book makes sense.”
Another reviewer called it “easily the worst book that I have ever read.”
“The topic of this book is so important and it’s a huge disservice to the black community to be represented in this way,” they wrote. “Not only is this book racist towards every group of people, its popularity is based off of its topic rather than its literary value, which is very low.”
Ultimately, the parent told The Iowa Standard they believe requiring students to read the book “creates more division, when what our youth and society really need right now is more unity.”