Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me

Book - 2015
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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 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.
Publisher: New York : Spiegel & Grau, [2015]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780812993547
0812993543
Characteristics: 152 pages : illustrations ; 20 cm

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t
timsborden
Sep 28, 2020

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.

c
cort_66
Sep 10, 2020

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.

LPL_SarahM Aug 25, 2020

Please read this as soon as possible.

JCLDevinB Jul 23, 2020

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.

d
Debramsey
Jul 18, 2020

Felt the author was rambling throughout the book - did not enjoy.

1
1tarheel
Jul 12, 2020

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.'

AndreaG_KCMO Jun 04, 2020

Relevant and necessary reading.

t
TaraAttea
May 31, 2020

A must read

p
PCimba
Mar 29, 2020

Powerful, damning, evocative.

r
ryankegley
Mar 15, 2020

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.

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n
nitsirklea
Jan 30, 2020

“I wanted to pursue things, to know things, but I could not match the means of knowing that came naturally to me with the expectations of professors. The pursuit of knowing was freedom to me, the right to declare your own curiosities and follow them through all manner of books. I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people's interests. The library was open, unending, free.”

a
abbi_g
Dec 27, 2018

For their innocence, they nullify your anger, your fear, until you are coming and going, and you find yourself inveighing against yourself -- 'Black people are the only people who ...' -- really inveighing against your own humanity and raging against the crime in your ghetto, because you are powerless before the great crime of history that brought the ghettos to be.

t
taylorwoods
Feb 17, 2017

“But race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming “the people” has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy. Difference in hue and hair is old. But the belief in the preeminence of hue and hair, the notion that these factors can correctly organize a society and that they signify deeper attributes, which are indelible—this is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white.”

m
mucho_libro
Jan 14, 2017

I grew up in a house drawn between love and fear. There was no room for softness. But this girl with the long dreads revealed something else -- that love could be soft and understanding; that, soft or hard, love was an act of heroism.

b
blessedOne
Aug 26, 2016

"Never forget that we were enslaved in this country longer than we have been free. Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains - whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains."

s
starsabove
Jun 08, 2016

(This book opens with a quote from Richard Wright that contains the title of the book):

And one morning while in the woods I stumbled suddenly upon the thing, stumbled upon it in a grassy clearing guarded by scaly oaks and elms. And the sooty details of the scene rose, thrusting themselves between the world and me.

bickjd Apr 04, 2016

"Once, the Dream’s parameters were caged by technology and by the limits of horsepower and wind. But the Dreamers have improved themselves, and the damming of seas for voltage, the extraction of coal, the transmuting of oil into food, have enabled an expansion in plunder with no known precedent. And this revolution has freed the Dreamers to plunder not just the bodies of humans but the body of the Earth itself. The Earth is not our creation. It has no respect for us. It has no use for us. And its vengeance is not the fire in the cities but the fire in the sky. Something more fierce is riding on the whirlwind. Something more awful than all our African ancestors is rising with the seas…across the sprawl, is the automobile, the noose around the neck of the earth, and ultimately, the Dreamers themselves.” (150)

bickjd Apr 04, 2016

“…predictions of national doom. I had head such predictions all my life… [I knew] that this was all too pat, knowing that should the Dreamers reap what they had sown, we would reap it right with them. Plunder has matured into habit and addiction; the people who could author the mechanized death of our ghettos, the mass rape of private prisons, then engineer their own forgetting, must inevitably plunder much more. This is not belief in prophecy but in the seductiveness of cheap gasoline."

h
heidikay1
Dec 08, 2015

That was the week you learned that the killers of Michael Brown would go free… and I heard you crying. I came in five minutes after, and I didn’t hug you, and I didn’t comfort you, because I thought it would be wrong to comfort you. I did not tell you it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay. What I told you is what your grandparents tried to tell me: that this is your country, that this is your world, that this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.

s
shayshortt
Sep 17, 2015

“The pursuit of knowing was freedom to me, the right to declare your own curiosities and follow them through all manner of books. I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free.”

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c
cort_66
Sep 21, 2020

This is a story that is in the form of a letter from the author to his 15 year old son. The book has 3 parts, the first part is about the author’s childhood and what it was like growing up in West Baltimore ghettos.

The second part of the book talks about the death of someone he met while attending Howard University, Prince Jones. He feels rage toward police brutality involved with his death. The author wants his son Samori to understand the weight and struggle he will have a black man in America. The author also goes to France and his eyes are opened to life in other parts of the world and how he fits in as he realizes how fear has damaged him.

The third part is about the author’s meeting with the mother of Prince Jones, Dr. Mabel Jones. She tells about her history and more about her son. The author wants to prepare his son and remind him to engage in the struggle for his own life as a black person. He wants his son to know that he is not responsible for changing white people to the struggle he sees.

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s
shayshortt
Sep 17, 2015

Violence: Murders of African American men

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