On the Come Up by Angie Thomas


On the Come Up
Authors: Angie Thomas
Published: February 5, 2019 by Balzer + Bray

GoodReads Summary: Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.

My Review: After reading this book, I promptly went into my course syllabus for next semester and swapped out another book to include this one. There are so many things that I love about this book. In particular, I really liked how this book tackled the issues of violence against and the assumptions stereotypically made of black females. There are only a few other recent books that tackle these issues, and they are critically important. I get incredibly frustrated by assumptions like “aggressive black female.” Angie Thomas deftly addresses these assumptions and provides a variety of angles for readers. Bri, the narrator, is incredibly strong, and I admire her greatly. I will never have a daughter, but if I did, I would be so proud if my daughter turned out to be like her. This book just feels different from any book that I’ve read. It offers something different that is going to make for great classroom conversations.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I am going to be using this book in a Social Movements and Collective Action course. I will be using it with other texts to talk about the history and currency of the #blacklivesmatter movement. I am very excited that this book exists in the world, and I know that my students will love it.

Discussion Questions: How does the author craft dialogue? What might other writers learn from her work?; What messages does the text reveal? Which messages are less obvious but implicit in a reading of the text?; What connections does this text have with the world today?

Flagged Passage: “There’s only so much you can take being described as somebody you’re not.”

Read This If You Loved: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas; All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely; by Ilyassah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon; The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon; How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon; Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles; Audacity by Melanie Crowder; The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Recommended For:

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3 thoughts on “On the Come Up by Angie Thomas”

  1. I’m excited to hear about your Social Movements and Collective Action course, Ricki!!!!! On the Come Up will meet those needs soooo well. That book packs a punch within an engaging storyline! I also appreciated A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée for the amount of details and responses related to the Black Lives Matter movement. It was a middle grade novel, but I was relieved to see them address the alternate responses of “all lives matter” and “blue lives matter” to explain why they were NOT in competition. I also felt that Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan did a really good job of addressing black female stereotypes. Jasmine was a fierce character, not backing down when push came to shove (i.e. when being cast in stereotypical theatre roles). I sure wish I could be a fly on the wall in your course. Sounds AMAZING! I also need to look through your “Read This If You Loved” list to make sure I add anything I haven’t read to my stack. Thank you!

  2. I just listened to this on audio and agree completely with everything you said here. What lucky students to have you as a teacher and such intriguing and important courses! Which I could take that one, too.

    This novel really provided some perspectives I hadn’t thought much about before.


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