The book is titled, “The Hate U Give,” and in it author Angie Thomas explores drug addiction, poverty and gang violence set in an urban neighborhood.
It’s a topic some, but probably a minority of Malden residents, are familiar with and Thomas’ book is probably checked out of the local library a handful of times a year.
That is all about to change. Malden Reads, a local organization founded by city residents eight years ago, is promoting a city-wide reading of “The Hate U Give” supported by a year’s worth of discussions, dinners and movie viewing aimed at broadening and deepening discussion on Thomas’ themes.
One of the themes set for exploration is the dual life the book’s main character lives. The teenager lives in the inner city but attends school in a predominantly white community. Malden High School English teacher Sean Walsh said “The Hate U Give” is a popular read among teenagers but he described it as “… riveting and enriching for adults.”
The book meets Malden Reads’ selection standards multi-generational appeal required to turn a broad cross section of a community into page turners committed to reading a book and following the experience up with discussion.
Malden Reads is not a new community-level concept aimed at sparking community dialogue. Communities across the country, probably the globe, use literature as a crowbar to pry viewpoints and ideas for creating consensus out of the minds of individuals living in a city or town.
Nahant’s library has successfully launched community-wide reading participation in the island town and while Malden Reads’ objective may be aimed at a larger audience, it is focused on the same goal.
While social media in its various forms succeeds in bludgeoning the mind with images and ideas, books massage the mind into the exercise of spending a prolonged period of time entering a world created by an author and testing the reader’s world view against the one framed in the story.
Linda Zalk, the leader of the Malden Reads selection committee, put it a different way when she said the committee picked “The Hate U Give” to “… provide a springboard for thoughtful and civil dialogue in the community on topics that are nationally and locally important.”
That is a big challenge and a bold one that included input from Malden Police Chief Kevin Molis.
The Malden Reads founding member also said she and the committee consulted with Molis before it was finalized. Programming related to The Hate U Give will begin in February. Here’s hoping the book sparks interest and debate worthy of a community that has already made strides in addressing intolerance and becoming a welcoming community for people from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and experiences.