Angie Thomas, made her debut with the #1 New York Times-bestselling, award-winningThe Hate You Give. Thomas is a former rapper who holds a BFA in creative writing, was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson Mississippi. We are thrilled to be a part of her latest book, On the Come Up, and had the privilege of sitting down with Angie to discuss her newest story.
Q. What would you like to share about your new novel, On the Come Up? The main character of Bri seems to have a lot in common with Angie Thomas.
There are bits and pieces here and there that Bri and I have in common, but it’s mainly our love for hip hop. I was a lot quieter than Bri was when I was a teen, but similarly to Bri, I used hip hop to express myself.
Q. The Hate U Give and On the Come Up take place in the same town. Is this a reflection of the town you grew up in? And do you foresee more novels based in Garden Heights?
Garden Heights the neighborhood is based on my own childhood neighborhood, down to the landmarks and businesses and even the characters. My third book will be set in Garden Heights as well. After that, I don’t think I will return to that neighborhood.
Q. Who were your greatest influences in hip hop? How important do you feel the storytelling aspect of hip-hop music is as a form of expression and a way of spreading knowledge?
Some of my biggest hip-hop influences are 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G., TLC, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Lauryn Hill, and Rapsody. Hip hop showed me myself when books didn’t, and it told the stories I connected with the most. That’s extremely important for young people especially, because it often reminds them they aren’t alone. Plus, hip hop helps make more people aware of societal issues. We wouldn’t know the truth of what happens in urban America if it weren’t for hip hop.
Q. Are there any books or authors out there that you can recommend to someone looking for more diversity in both characters and life experiences?
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds; Odd One Out by Nic Stone; Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany Jackson;The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo; Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed; Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
Q. Could you share a bit about the We Need Diverse Books movement, and what being the inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Myers Grant meant for you and to you?
We Need Diverse Books has done tremendous work for children’s literature. It has called attention to the fact that marginalized children have not been provided nearly enough books that show them themselves. Winning one of the Walter Dean Myers grants gave me so much encouragement – it let me know that there was a place for stories like mine in children’s literature.
Q. How does it feel to go from finding an agent through a Q&A on Twitter to now being hailed as “one of the most influential literary voices of a generation”?
It’s amazing. I’m honored to know that so many people have connected with my words. I also hope that it inspires aspiring writers – you may get lots of rejections along the way, but all it takes is one “yes” to change everything.