ZELLA COMPTON: Teen novel made me realise my views are institutionalised

I read the most amazing book last weekend, by an author called Angie Thomas.

Tuesday, 19th June 2018, 9:00 pm
Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give

It’s one of those books that the rest of the world appears to know about but which has passed me by, even though my 14-year-old daughter has told me about it often enough and it’s been on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 60 weeks.

What propelled me to read it was hearing the author at the Greenwich Book Festival talk about her work and her life growing up in Mississippi. The book, The Hate U Give, is the story of a teenager whose friend is shot by a policeman. He’s unarmed, pulled over for nothing other than the colour of his skin.

What amazed me about reading this young adult novel is that I’ve heard about American police brutality so many times, I’ve seen videos, I’ve read the news and thought so little about it. Really, really so little.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

And this book doesn’t let you off the hook, for it explores the impact on the family and friends and community. It challenges the way that you think about the situation and the way that you think about yourself.

I like to believe, for example, that I am not racist. But, after reading about the protagonist’s relationships with white school friends, and their casual statements and beliefs, I realise that I have institutionalised my opinions of so much of what happens in these cases.

My beliefs are shaped by media, and frankly, when I reflect on some of it (like thinking that there must be a drug-related reason for the shooting) I am wholly embarrassed.

But this is what novels do, good ones anyway. They tell extraordinary stories and challenge the way that we see the world with more than a healthy dose of empathy. It’s no wonder that there is a growing call to protect our librarians, as librarians are the keepers of the secret of having great, glorious and meaningful lives. Librarians and book festivals might be the secret ingredient to remaining sane in the chaos of our world.


There has been so much in the press about upskirting and the blocking of the bill through parliament, it’s made me feel sick.

Firstly because the MP who blocked it is a serial blocker and that’s a rubbish way to behave.

But also because, yuck – who does that? Why would anyone want to take a picture up someone’s skirt? If someone doesn’t realise it’s off-limits already, I’m not sure how easy it will be, but let’s make sure all people know that it’s not right.

And let’s let all those out there who still make ridiculous comments about women not tempting fate with short skirts realise that in fact, with that one comment, they are being wholly offensive about the male gender not being able to control themselves.


Hooray that McDonald’s has bowed to peer pressure and is looking to replace plastic with paper straws by the end of 2019, but why is it taking so long?

Surely with a company that works with incredible efficiency, changing to paper shouldn’t be that hard? And is it using paper around the globe? That will be the true test of corporation’s intentions, whether it becomes something that is being forced by national law, or something that the company wants to do because it is the right thing for the world. Either way, McDonald’s is not somewhere I visit often being as, handy though a drive-through window is, the taste and substance hasn’t pleased me for years.

But if it‘s all paper-based, maybe I’ll give them another chance.