Angie Thomas

is most commonly associated in the public imagination with young black males. Indeed, the book’s title is taken from Tupac Shakur’s maxim ‘Thug Life’ – tattooed on his torso and said by him to stand for ‘The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody’.

The critical reading offered by Starr’s father highlights themes present in both the Harry Potter series and The Hate U Give; loyalty, belonging, , and overcoming fear. Thomas demonstrates that whilst these two stories have settings that differ in terms of race, class and nationality, ‘universal themes’ are found in both books. Given that she is writing for a YA audience, including both black and white readers, this passage acts as a way of communicating to a white audience how to translate a text and identify universal themes. Thomas as a black writer centering black characters cannot afford to alienate white readers, not just because of book sales, but because her novel is born out of a determination to humanise black men shot dead by the police. Whilst Starr is the novel’s focaliser, Starr’s father’s theory viewed in the opposite direction gives readers more familiar with Harry Potter than life in poor black neighborhoods a point of access. Thomas writes of the continued significance of racialised difference and at the same time acknowledges commonalities and the possibility of understanding across difference.

Like Thomas, Wheatle anchors his realism with canonical British fantasy

Thomas’s use of Rowling’s books indicates the global reach of the conventions of British fantasy.

It is unusual, however, for BAME-

authored or centered books to have that global reach. Guardian children’s fiction prize-winner Alex Wheatle’s books, for example, are not currently published in the United States, one of the largest

Darren Chetty is completing a PhD at UCL Institute of Education and teaching on the BA Education Studies course, and has nearly 20 years of experience in primary education.

YA markets in the world. The US media market, like its British counterpart, tends to favour the ‘ordinary’ vision of nostalgia England; reading British children’s and YA books published in the US would convince any American reader that a non-white person in Britain was a mistake, an anomaly, or a force of evil. But Wheatle, like Thomas, writes realistic fiction about the effect of gangs, poverty and institutional indifference (if not hostility) on the lives of British young people. And like Thomas, Wheatle anchors his realism with canonical British fantasy. In Crongton Knights, the main character McKay keeps ‘my Lord of the Rings DVDs sitting next to my King Arthur and the Round Table stories’ (77). Crongton Knights even begins with a map, similar to classic fantasy novels,


Tolkien’s, that include maps to give a sense of reality and history to their created world. Wheatle’s map, complete with castles, and his characters’ connection to a British past of quests, kings and conquering evil forces, links readers familiar with fantasy to his stories, while at the same time connecting readers familiar with contemporary urban life to canonical British fantasy. In so doing, he expands the definition of who belongs in British children’s literature. This is critical for BAME readers, because the ‘bit of earth’ that is England belongs to all its readers.

Karen Sands-O’Connor is professor of English at SUNY Buffalo State in New York. She has, as Leverhulme Visiting Professor at Newcastle University, worked with Seven Stories, the National Centre for the Children’s Book, and has recently published Children’s Publishing and Black Britain 1965-2015 (Palgrave Macmillan 2017).

Books for Keeps No.228 January 2018 15

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