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As a white woman with a black Grandson I find a need to reeducate myself on American history. So much of the historical view leaves out the reality of this country for a good percentage of it's people. This is a book I will reread. This is a beautifully written letter to his son.
I thought this was well worth reading. The emphasis on ‘the body’ resonated with ‘Black Lives Matter’; both making the most fundamental statement about personhood.
Teens who have experienced racism as well as those who have followed the recent news coverage on violence against people of color can relate to this title. This book would bring an excellent discussion about race in America.
Please read this as soon as possible.
Between the World and Me is a book that gets better with every subsequent read. It is profound yet conversational. This is a necessary read for everyone out there and is guaranteed to make you consider your own life and experiences. I would not only recommend this to people who have never read Coates but would encourage those who have previously read it to pick it up again and to keep picking it up through the course of your life.
It's easy to see why Coates has been identified as the successor to James Baldwin: the conversational style, and the deep layers are hard to miss. Coates' storytelling feels closer to me, though. We're about the same age, and yet his experience feels like a different planet from my white, middle-class upbringing. I am grateful to have this insight, even though it's profoundly troubling. Toni Morrison was right: this is a 'must read.'
Relevant and necessary reading.
For anyone paying attention (which is to say, me — and Megan, who so patiently listens to each of these reviews once written), each year, over the past few anyway, I choose a theme around which to pick my books. Some years are more obvious than others, but after “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” slave narratives by Frederick Douglass and Solomon Northup, and now Ta-Nehisi Coates “Between the World and Me,” I’d say this year’s focus has made itself pretty clear.
I’d gone to the library expecting to pick up a copy of W.E.B. Du Bois’ “The Souls of Black Folk” but it hadn’t yet arrived from the transferring branch. I pulled up my reading list to see what my local branch might have on hand and was overcome with an inexplicable and unexpected giddiness when I pulled the book from the shelf. It’s not that I wasn’t excited about picking up the Du Bois. I most certainly was. But brief though the hunt might have been, it felt like I’d been looking for treasure and was surprised that I’d found some. Anyway, with either Du Bois or Coates, I was ready to move on to a different facet of the black experience.
If you don’t know by now, these days (or should I say these decades?) I am rarely at the vanguard of anything. I get around to books, movies, television shows, etc. in my own time — and rarely while they are still in vogue. And so it is with Coates’ 2015 “Between the World and Me,” that, if you hadn’t heard, was winner of the National Book Award, #1 New York Times Best Seller, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, and made pretty much any Top-Ten list you can imagine. It’s only natural then that I’d wait until everyone who was likely to read it had already done so, including a good number of my Goodreads friends.
It occurs to me that at this point in my review, as I drag on and on with a lengthy and largely unnecessary preamble, that I am at a loss for words to describe the impact and import of this book. While I hesitate to say this book was not written for me as its audience, which is to say it was not written for white people as its audience, or, as Coates would put it, “people who think they are white,” this is, as Toni Morrison states firmly on the cover, “required reading.” In the parlance of our times, I like to think I am fairly “woke.” Intelligent and reasonably well-read, yes, but I am a middle-aged, middle-class “white” man working in the largely “white” field of advertising who has little contact with others who don’t look like me. I may believe that this is not by design, and though I personally may not be driven by nefarious intent, it neither reflects nor changes the reality of the world I inhabit.
Written as a letter to his 15-year-old son, Coates, in an incredibly vulnerable way, opens the door — blows it off the hinges really — to what the world, past, present, and future, looks like from the lens of someone who is black. Intellectually I’ve understood what this means, but I did not and cannot know. My understanding came with what amounts to little more than unwanted, perhaps even condescending, sympathy. Coates isn’t looking for sympathy. He’s looking for truth, for knowledge, for a way for himself and his son and those who are black — and for all of us, really — to find a way to inhabit and navigate a world fraught with racial division, violence, exploitation, and the struggle for power. Through this deeply intimate work, we can, each of us, choose to look without blinking, to see the world as it is and not as we imagine it to be, and, if nothing else, begin to see people and worlds and lives that are not our own with more empathy and less sympathy. As Coates so eloquently put it, “race is the child of racism, not the father.” What a changed world we would have if we could remake it in this way, but to find a path forward we first have to see, truly see, each other. “Between the World and Me” is a powerful way to start.
Ghettostone Publications Company's Editor/Chief Michael R. Brown and
The BEST SELLERS BOOK CLUB's review of author Ta-Nehisi Coates "Between
The World And Me" . This book was insightful, thought provoking and deeply
honest self examination of the African American experience as described by the
writer. These heartfelt descriptions told as parables in letters from the author to
his new born son. The parables are warnings about the "particular institutions" of
American Life and the dangers of just being Black or Brown has attached to it.
The author painstakingly details American Culture that includes "white supremacy"
ideology which has influenced genocide, land grabs, enslavement of Africans and
what the author calls "pillaging" of humans beings. The book uses historical accounts,
news reports, government stats to make a hard arguments that are inescapable and undeniable. The writing style weaves conversation with literary references, historical records and News reports are upper level and not meant for a easy read. I appreciate
the quality of writing. The intellectual narrative. The hard facts that cause difficulty
for non-political folks who might not be used to the "real" truth about America's
treatment of it citizens based solely of "color". It's uplifting recounts of history and
progress of Civil Rights Movements is worthy of note, but the continuation of
ignorance combined with blatant hatred and abuse from law enforcement make
the reader shutter with grief as to "Why" the hate of a minority group that has
contributed to American for over 350 years even before many of those who practice hatred even arrived on American shores...... WHY? Highly recommended for folks who wish to be "woke" and those who need to review their personal impact on daily life and whether your helping to solve racial problems of today or you are part of the status quo.
BEST SELLERS BOOK CLUB and Ghettostone Publications Editor/Chief Michael R. Brown highly recommend this book for all of our life long learners and book lovers who grow with the times....!
A letter filled with experience, hope, and advice from a black man to his young son, this book will change your view of how you navigate the world.
This book will make you uncomfortable. Of course, that is a pretty good reason to read it. Gaining a different sense of empathy is another good reason. Coates is an African-American writer. This short book is in the form of three essays written to his son, to explain his background and to explain the fears that a person labeled “black” in America has. The writer discovers, after he becomes a father, that these fears have become even more for his children than for himself.
Part of the book is an essay on racism, told through Coates’s discovery of the many different kinds of people who are labeled “black” while attending Howard University and through his changing views of “blackness” and African-American history as he read different books and met people from all over the world. He talks about “people who call themselves white”, meaning most Caucasians, and observes that racism came before the concept of “race”.
A significant section of the book is about the author’s (and his son’s) reactions to the brutal police killings of young black men in the past few years. When his son reacts to the shooting of Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, Coates remembers his shock at the death of his friend, Prince Jones, a deeply religious college student and new father, shot by an undercover African-American police officer who was following the wrong man.
This should be required reading for Americans of all races.
A few days before the hubby and I left for Joshua Tree I saw a friend mention this book as a "game changer" on her Facebook page. I figured I'd throw it on my "for later shelf" at the library so I wouldn't forget, but I noticed the audio book was available and it was only about 3.5 hours long (which would be perfect for the short roadtrip). I scooped it up from the library and the hubby and I listened to it on the way to and from JTree. Other than hearing it was very impactful I wasn't really sure what it was about. This book is written from the father's perspective to a son. The author is telling/ teaching his son about the ways of American culture and how it is essentially built on the back of violence, terror and the backs of others. Although this book focuses on being black in America, I felt like because it was written as a "letter" from a father to a son, it wasn't as pointed as other books that come out blatantly to say "this is what's wrong with America and this is why you suck". (Don't get me wrong, I absolutely believe that the plight of blacks in America is real, despicable and something that needs to change, but some books turn off their readers because the audience doesn't like to be accused of their wrongdoings. The way this book was written I felt like I was observing an intimate conversation between a dad and his boy and was able to take away some very important knowledge without automatically being on the defense.) The hubby and I both felt as though we walked away with a better understanding of the systematic issues blacks (and other minorities) face. I think that the only thing that could have made this book better would have been to include actionable ideas on how to change the broken machine we are all a part of. I read books like this and know things need to change, but have a hard time seeing how I can help. Maybe in a tiny way being able to suggest others to read this book, question our environment and have honest and open conversations is one of the first (of many) steps I can take. I would give it a 9 out of 10.
This book, man. I come from about as polar opposite a starting point as Coates, so it took me a little bit to get into his groove despite everything I've learned and experienced to bring me closer to his perspective. His words weren't quite clicking into place at first. But then they did, and the more I read and reread the more meaning and impact I take from them. After finishing the book I went to go back and review the beginning and got so caught up I couldn't stop reading. It's that kind of book, the more you read it the better it gets. It says so much about who we are as a nation and yet makes it so personal. As has been said, it is essential and profound.
Written in the form of a letter to his teenage son, Coates describes in blunt and honest terms what it is like to grow up black in the United States. Everyone seems to love this book, and I wanted to love it too. But while it was distressing and eye-opening, I had a fair amount of difficulty with Coates' writing style, which unfortunately detracted from my overall impression. The meandering, abstract thought, combined with no chapter breaks, was a challenge for this left-brained reader.
I grew up as a white girl in inner-city LA and I know the difference between poverty and poverty consciousness. I imagined I knew what it might be to be poor and black. I knew nothing!
This book lays bare facts I dimly comprehended as well as explaining the unfathomable appointment of Donald Trump.
I found this grueling and upsetting to read, but I struggled through it although gaining such insight was painful making me feel furious and helpless. Yet, I was only reading this, NOT experiencing it!
My education began with Malcolm Gladwell's Blink and other books by Gladwell and progressed with Ta -Nehisi Coates.
An important book to read to learn about the lives of Black Americans. I learned a lot in the advice/guidance Coates was providing his son.
At once introspective & profoundly honest, Coates' colloquial-inundated epistle is ratting, brutal, touching, & may have a twinge of hopeful despair (forgiving the contradiction in terms). The discussion & introspection about "race" & the socialisation of supposed ethnographical self-identification are almost alarmingly recounted--while the story almost holds a film-like revisiting of the shared memories of both father and son (the Michael Brown and Treyvon Martin mentions are very emotional, & outside of his perspective very unique.)
This book pulls no punches, & is heightened tremendously through the author's magnetic, meaning-rich voice: the only one that could recount these words.
This book was written as a letter from a father to his 15-year-old son about what it means to have a black body and be a black boy/man in America. It was awesome with great writing. I connected to this in a couple of big ways: I am the same age bracket as the author and his language around “the Dream” really hit home for me….I loved it! (Submitted by JF).
See my review at
No reason to rehash the importance of this series of letters Coates wrote to his son about his life growing up black. Should be required reading of all Americans.