“This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.”
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?
Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.
I’m going to be up in my feelings about this one for a while. I appreciate the insight and the perspective that I experienced with this book. And while I don’t agree with everything that Coates wrote about, I am definitely of the mind that someone needed to hear it. Someone needs to know the conditions of blackness in America and what it means.
I think what makes it less of a disappointment and more of an “oh this was 100% intended for me personally” was the fact that this was written for Coates’ son. I’m not a young black boy, but I am a black woman. And I am the potential mother of a young black boy. On those levels, I can understand the intention behind this work.
Coates doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He’s very straightforward and lays everything out. His view of the American Dream (and the Dreamers) and how blackness is represented and displayed within that dream is very interesting. And probably my favorite part of the book.
The tone of the book’s beginning distances itself from the tone of the book’s end. Coates seeks to make a point that while it doesn’t resonate perfectly with me, it hits home in a sense that we, as black people, need to understand where we live and how this country/world is designed to treat people that are deemed “other”, “less than”.
Overall, it was a very interesting read. One that I don’t regret. Maybe I will reread it at a later time. Because there is a LOT that was thrown at me, a lot of context, a lot of background. I’m sure I missed something that was crucial. That could have made this book a home run for me. Either way, I enjoyed this read.