Young adult novel tossed from Grade 8 curriculum for the N-word, profanities

Book is about Black teenager who struggles with identity, trauma after witnessing death of friend by police

Jayreece Whiley

An American young adult novel, The Hate U Give, was scratched from the Nova Scotia Grade 8 curriculum because it contains the N-word and profanities. The book has been available as a resource in Grade 8 classrooms since 2018. The book has been widely banned in schools in the United States due to its depictions of racism and anti-police views.

Jennifer Burke, the director of curriculum development with the Education Department, said the book – The Hate U Give – is not banned in schools. The book was simply removed from the department’s recommended reading resource list. It would still be available in some school libraries where students could read it independently.

Paul Ash, an official of the Nova Scotia Department of Education, said there were two complaints related to the book: one from a Black parent and another from a regional centre for education about the use of the N-word and other offensive language.

While there has not been an upsurge against the removal of the book, many believe that the book is a great teaching tool in these rather fraught times.

University student Jayreece Whiley, said that while the use of the N-word can be sensitive, it is still heard in schools.

“I think this book is a great tool to teach about police brutality and different things that Black people go through,” said Whiley. But “we have to grow within our uncomfort and we still have to discuss it. Even if it’s uncomfortable, we still have to discuss it,” he said.

Grade 11 student Elo Agbada concurred. She read the book for class and it led to some insightful discussions, despite some classmates never having heard of police brutality. And wasn’t surprised by the use of the N-word in the book, given its storyline, but the teacher handled discussions carefully.

Another grade 11 student Damini Awoyiga, said the book should be taught in classrooms because it provides much-needed context about how Black people are affected by racial discrimination and police violence in their day-to-day lives.

“It had a really big impact on me, and it made me really think that if a book that has that much impact on me is taken away from other students that could perhaps learn from that experience, then it would be a really negative thing that would happen,” Awoyiga said.

She said she hopes students will take it upon themselves to read the book on their own.