Title: Between the World and Me
Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Genre: Non-Fiction Social Issues
Summary: In a series of essays, written as a letter to his son, Coates confronts the notion of race in America and how it has shaped American history, many times at the cost of black bodies and lives. Thoughtfully exploring personal and historical events, from his time at Howard University to the Civil War, the author poignantly asks and attempts to answer difficult questions that plague modern society. In this short memoir, the “Atlantic” writer explains that the tragic examples of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and those killed in South Carolina are the results of a systematically constructed and maintained assault to black people–a structure that includes slavery, mass incarceration, and police brutality as part of its foundation. From his passionate and deliberate breakdown of the concept of race itself to the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, Coates powerfully sums up the terrible history of the subjugation of black people in the United States. A timely work, this title will resonate with all teens–those who have experienced racism as well as those who have followed the recent news coverage on violence against people of color.
“You are growing into consciousness, and my wish for you is that you feel no need to constrict yourself to make other people comfortable.”
I feel ashamed to admit that I waited so long to read this book, it’s been hanging out on my shelves for over a year and I kept putting it off until I finally decided this was the time. In this book Coates pens a sort of love letter to his son but it’s really a love letter to anyone who is willing to listen to what it is like to be a black man in America, it is a plea to understand what it is like to live in their skin and to see things the way they do. Our story begins when his son hears the ruling of Michael Brown, and he tells his father “I’ve got to go.” And so Coates talks to his son via this book in an attempt to show him that he too is angry, that he too is frustrated but it’s more than a rant, this is an intelligent compilation of ignored history and shared timelines of all black people.
Coates takes us back to growing up in Baltimore and going to the ‘Mecca’, Howard University, loosing a friend to police brutality and the impact of that loss and how it haunts him. This book is one of those that I need to reread and mark and share and read again and develop a relationship with it that will continue teaching me new things for years to come.
Nothing in this book is ‘wrong’ because everything in this book is how Coates feels and how many many others feels so how can I, as a white Hispanic, trample those feelings? It is a gut-wrenching read and many times I raged along with Coates and I felt his forceful frustration at the continual systematic racism embedded into our society that is invisible to all those of us who are not black. Coates does not sugar coat, he will make you uncomfortable, he will make you evaluate how you see things, how you respond and most importantly how we ignore as long as it doesn’t affect us.
Incredible, incredible read, I cannot recommend it enough especially if you live in any colonized country where all of these same strands continue to manifest themselves since they were never handled.
Needless to say, I will read whatever Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, he is the James Baldwin of this generation.