Black lives matter and so do black stories.
Author Angie Thomas embodies that statement, and if you thought she was done giving us raw and brutally honest depictions of black reality with her novel-turned-film The Hate U Give, I have news for you: She ain’t.
According to People, the acclaimed author has written a new book set in the same fictional universe as The Hate You Give called Concrete Rose. While Thomas’ 2017 New York Times bestselling young adult novel focused on tackling police brutality, Concrete Rose takes a close look at the prison system and the devastating effect it has had on black families.
Concrete Rose takes place 17 years before the events in her first book and chronicles the life of Maverick Carter, Starr’s father.
Maverick plays a major role in The Hate U Give, and in Concrete Rose, his story takes center stage. The novel tracks Mavericks beginnings as he navigates becoming a father to Starr’s older brother, Seven, when he’s just 17. Concrete Rose is a fast-paced, moving story about what it means to be a young black man—and father— in America.
“Of all characters who really just stayed with me, Maverick was at the top of that list,” Thomas, 31, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview about the book. “And what was fascinating to me was once readers started reading The Hate U Give and then when the film came out, he was the character that I was asked about the most.”
It often feels as though only black creatives are ever interested in humanizing black people who end up in prison. Where society sees a “thug” who needs to be thrown away to protect the general public, we see a person who might have made mistakes but still has the potential to be great. That is why writers like Thomas are so necessary; because it is usually left up to us to point out the environmental circumstances and systemic issues that cause black people to end up on the wrong side of the law.
“I started talking to young real-life Mavericks. Young men who are trying to still find their way and are often written off and seen as troublemakers or this or that,” Thomas said. “They’re never seen as [having] potential, they’re only seen as being at risk. They have stories and they deserve the opportunity to not just grow, they deserve the opportunities to be seen as someone beyond their circumstances.”
These stories are especially important for young people to read and receive life lessons. Unfortunately, if Concrete Rose is given the same treatment as The Hate U Give, you can expect entire school districts to ban the book. According to Entertainment Weekly, scores of parents took issue with the drug use that took place in The Hate U Give as well as the explicit language, causing it to be banned in certain districts and, according to The Guardian, police officers wanted it taken off of high school reading lists because they didn’t like the focus on police brutality. (Because...of course they wouldn’t.)
Fortunately, Thomas doesn’t give a shit.
“…Nobody wants to talk about teen sex, nobody wants to talk about teen pregnancy or teen parents. But he’s amongst us every single day and it’s something that we cannot ignore, ” Thomas said. “And I’m going to keep writing it and my publisher is still going to publish it. Why? Because there are young people who need this story… Your discomfort is not my problem. My concern is for those young people who need this [book].”