Jackson’s own Angie Thomas is enjoying the success of her books and movie deals
One of the upcoming projects will feature the author’s hometown.
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi and Jackson’s own Angie Thomas is rubbing elbows with some of the big names in entertainment and high-powered figures like former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Her work is not stopping there. She is also bringing Jackson into the spotlight with a fantasy novel. We caught up with the award winning author who is Turning the Page on the next chapter of her career.
“There’s been a whole lot going on. It’s been a whirlwind,” Thomas said.
That is putting it mildly when you look at what Thomas has accomplished. After her first book that was turned into a movie, The Hate U Give, she has written several other books, including Concrete Rose.
“Concrete Rose was released last year. Almost exactly a year to today. And the response to it has been phenomenal. It got the Prince Honor Award which was announced the other week, which is the highest honor in young adult literature. So I’m super excited about that,” Thomas said.
Her book On the Come Up is also being turned into a movie. Filming wrapped up in December.
Thomas said, “we filmed that in Atlanta and one of my favorite actresses Sanaa Lathan is not only in it but she also directed it. This is her directorial debut. And with Sanaa, we have Method Man, we have Mike Epps and we have Little Yachty. An awesome cast.”
Thomas is all about offering and creating opportunities for others, like the young actress who has the lead in the new movie.
“A young woman by the name of Jamila, this will be her first role in a major motion picture and she’ll be playing Bria. So I’m super excited for everyone to see that and I’m super happy that this is her chance and we’re giving her this chance and that this is going to be her first big film, because I have no doubt she’s gonna be huge one day.”
But her work doesn’t stop there. Thomas’ talent has not gone unnoticed by big names in the industry like Netflix, FOX and Warner Brothers.
“Several friends and I we wrote a book together called Blackout that came out last year. And it takes place in New York City over the course of a blackout. It’s not an anthology that, all the stories are connected and I had a chance to write about a group of kids from Mississippi visiting New York City in the middle of a blackout, so that was fun. That is now being adapted by Netflix for both a movie and a show and the Obamas are producing it. It just blows my mind and now I’m working on my first television show with FOX and Warner Brothers and Issa Rae is producing that.”
Even with the big names much of Thomas’ work is pulled from growing up on Center Street in the Georgetown community in Jackson. Which brings us to her next book.
“A fantasy novel and it takes place right in Jackson and I’m super excited about it...like I did a whole magical explanation for the potholes in Jackson that I think anybody from Jackson, I think they’re gonna love the explanation I have in this book.”
Thomas has also seen challenges like her books being pulled from school libraries in some areas of the country.
“I can say that when I sit down to write my books I am not sitting down to write a political statement, I’m sitting down to write a perspective and those perspectives may make some people uncomfortable but true change comes from discomfort,” said Thomas.
Thomas says we are entering dangerous territory when we’re talking about removing books.
Thomas said, “when we particularly target books from marginalized people, what you’re essentially saying is these stories should not be told, these stories don’t matter. My issue with that is not what it says to me as an author, believe me my book sales are still fine. That’s not my issue. My issue is the message that it sends to the young people who pick up The Hate U Give or On the Come Up or Concrete Rose and they see themselves in that book.”
The author adds she disagrees with anyone trying to silence the voices of young people that are often brought to life in books.
“Recently Concrete Rose was banned in a school district and then, at first it upset me obviously but what really hurt me...I thought about this young man who I received a letter from who is in a juvenile detention center and he told me, he said once I read Concrete Rose I realized that, ‘wow somebody does care enough about somebody like me and that they wrote a story about someone like me.’ And then it also told him, he said that it’s possible for somebody like me to change. Now was that an easy story to write? No. Is it an easy story to read? No. But it’s the story of so many of our young men and women and if we are going to ban these books we’re telling them we need to essentially not hear about your life,” Thomas said.
Thomas is motivated by media mogul Tyler Perry and like Perry she hopes to bring projects to Mississippi, to build a community center and possibly her own production company in her old neighborhood.
“My ultimate goal is to start filming here to start bringing projects here. So that we can have jobs here so that we can have young, talented people here discovered.”
The talented author says she looks back at how it all started and she is forever grateful to her mother. It followed a shooting where she and her friends were almost caught in the crossfire.
Thomas said, “my Mom after she realized I was okay she put me in the car and took me to the Medgar Evers Library, told the librarian what had happened and told her, ‘Look, I can’t put her on a plane and take her to see the world. All I can do is get her books. Can you please show her some books that will show her there’s more to the world than Georgetown, than Center Street, than Aaron Henry park and that shooting?’ And the librarian, she loaded me up with books and suddenly the world was opened up to me. Had I known on that day that those two guys getting into a shootout that it would change my life as I know it, I wouldn’t have believed it.”
Angie Thomas is also extremely proud of the scholarship named for her at her alma mater Belhaven University. So far two students have been given writing scholarships and they will soon begin work on a third scholarship recipient. For upcoming work, On The Come Up will be released later this year, possibly in the fall. And filming for Blackout will start in a few months.
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