Summary of Chapters 7 - 9
Starr sits on the bleachers with her friends Hailey and Maya, waiting for gym class to start. With their stomachs full from a fried-chicken cafeteria lunch, they watch as a group of their classmates play a game of girls-vs.-boys basketball. Hailey gets angry that the girls are playing poorly on purpose to flirt with the boys. She convinces Starr and Maya to start their own three-vs.-three game against Chris and two other boys. As they play, Chris asks Starr why she panicked after he touched her the day before, but Starr avoids the question. Chris grabs the ball and makes a run down the court, evading Starr as she tries to catch up with him. Hailey yells at Starr to pretend the ball is some fried chicken if she wants to stay on it.
Starr freezes in anger. She drops the ball and storms off the court to the locker room; Hailey and Maya rush in after her. Hailey insists that she didn’t intend the fried chicken comment to be racist, but Starr is unconvinced. Hailey and Maya tell Starr that she’s been acting different recently, and ask if she was friends with Khalil. Afraid that Hailey and Maya will treat her differently if they know the truth, Starr denies knowing Khalil. Instead, she lets them believe that she’s upset because it’s the anniversary of Natasha’s death. Her coach lets her go to the office to see the school psychiatrist, but Starr fakes menstrual cramps and calls her Uncle Carlos instead. Carlos takes Starr to a frozen yogurt shop, and they discuss the investigation surrounding Khalil’s death. Starr tells Carlos that the officer pointed his gun at her after he shot Khalil, and Carlos hugs Starr as she cries.
The following day is the morning of Khalil’s funeral at Christ Temple Church. Starr is disturbed at the sight of Khalil’s lifeless body in the coffin, which reminds her of Natasha’s similarly cold and inhuman corpse. During the service, her family sits in the front pew, next to Khalil’s family. The funeral is framed as a celebration of life rather than a mourning of death, with upbeat songs and prayer. But it takes a more serious turn when April Ofrah, a representative for a Garden Heights-based police accountability advocacy group called Just Us for Justice, takes the podium and tells the funeral-goers that Khalil was unarmed when he was shot. She invites everyone to attend a peaceful protest march after the service.
At the end of Ofrah’s speech, King enters the church with Iesha and a group of King Lords. Starr notes that her mother tenses up; she resents Iesha because Maverick got her pregnant with Seven during a “for hire” session he had after a fight with Lisa. King places a folded gray bandana on Khalil’s body, which signifies that he was involved with the King Lords. Rosalie angrily throws the bandana back at King, and Maverick convinces him to leave. After the service, Starr cries while her parents comfort her. April Ofrah approaches her and tells her to get in touch when and if she is ready to, because Just Us for Justice wants Starr to tell her side of the story.
That night, riots break out all over Garden Heights. Maverick sleeps at the store to guard it from looters while Lisa, Sekani, Seven, and Starr gather in their den. Machine-gun fire rings out in the neighborhood, and TV footage shows police cars set ablaze. Starr has trouble falling asleep, and when she finally does, nightmares jolt her back awake. It is morning, and Seven is banging on her door, asking Starr to go to the park with him for basketball like they usually do on the last Saturday of the month. Although Starr is reluctant to leave because of last night’s violence, she agrees and yells to her parents to let them know where she’s going.
Seven and Starr play basketball at Rose Park. Seven is unathletic, and Starr easily beats him, but the two enjoy their game until two men wearing Celtics jerseys approach them. These are Garden Disciples, and they harass Seven because he lives with King, a King Lord—pulling a knife and asking Seven to give them his phone and sneakers. DeVante, a younger King Lord who was posted in the park to sell drugs, approaches the Garden Disciples and reminds them that Rose Park is King Lord territory, showing them his gun. After the Garden Disciples leave, Seven thanks DeVante and offers his condolences for his brother, Dalvin, who died last week.
Maverick pulls up in a white Tahoe and yells at Starr and Seven for leaving the house the night after riots without telling him (neither he nor Lisa heard Starr’s shout on her way out). Back at home, Lisa and Maverick angrily declare that Starr is grounded, taking away her cell phone. Lisa takes Sekani and Starr to Carlos’s house for the day. On the way there, they see protestors, and Starr feels like the riots are her fault because she was unable to convince the police that the officer who shot Khalil should be arrested.
At Carlos’s house, Carlos’s wife Pam cooks meat on the grill while their young children, Daniel and Ava, play in the backyard. Starr’s grandmother, who lives with Carlos, complains to Lisa that Pam has been taking her food and cooking it the wrong way. The doorbell rings, and when Starr opens the door she finds Chris, who lives down the street from Carlos and saw Starr’s family drive past. He asks Starr why she’s been upset recently, and Starr admits that she feels distant from him because he is white and rich, and she is not. Chris reassures her that they can make the relationship work despite their differences. Starr feels encouraged that Chris truly cares for her, and she decides to make up with him, taking his hand and leading him to the backyard for dinner.
Analysis of Chapters 7 - 9
Hailey’s fried-chicken insult explores a complication of racism: the fact that, as Starr points out, people who are not intentionally racist can still say racist things. This is especially possible in an environment like Williamson, where the student body is virtually all white and students might not even be aware that their comments are hurtful and prejudiced. Instead of listening to Starr, Hailey gets upset and offended that Starr has accused her of making a thoughtless remark. This represents a difficulty often found in the conversation of race in America: defensiveness which prevents open communication.
Starr and Carlos’s relationship further explores the theme of family. Many of the families in the book are non-conventional, but are still able to offer strong support systems for their members. In this case, Carlos and Maverick compete because Maverick feels that Carlos replaced him as a father figure during Starr’s formative years. While both Carlos and Maverick care deeply for Starr, their feelings of pride get in the way of their relationship with her and with each other. Starr resents the fact that two people who care for each other constantly fight; ironically, they fight because they both believe they have her best interests at heart.
The importance of gangs to life in Garden Heights is made more evident by these chapters. The strict division of men into King Lords and Garden Disciples structures every aspect of life in the neighborhood, including even funerals. King’s placement of the bandana on Khalil’s body is an attempt to use Khalil to represent his gang even after he has died. When Starr and Seven encounter conflict in Rose Park, the possibility of violence that hinges on every interaction between gang members is made alarmingly evident. Residents of Garden Heights have to be on their toes and armed in order to deal with the potential violence that is tied up in the operation of gangs.
In addition, these chapters explore a controversial issue in American current events: violent protests in response to police mistreatment of African Americans. Garden Heights residents are passionately angry about the constant oppression of their friends, families, neighbors, and themselves; some react violently, and protests lead to riots and to looting. These forms of protest contrast with the peaceful march organized by Just Us for Justice, and they also speak to the larger ideology conflict between people like Maverick, who espouse the ideology of the Black Panthers, and people like Mr. Lewis, who argues for Dr. King’s ideology.
Finally, Starr and Chris’s relationship is made more difficult by the differences between them: they live in different places, come from different backgrounds, and have different skin colors. Starr worries that their differences will make it hard for the relationship to work because they put distance between the two. Chris has more optimism about the ability of their relationship to work despite the undeniably different ways they experience the world. Uncle Carlos’s house provides a physical space for Starr’s “Garden Heights” and “Williamson” worlds to mix, just as Starr feels that to some extent she can combine her two selves when she is with Chris.