Monday, April 24, 2017

Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and Me
Title: Between the World and Me
Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Publication Date: June 2015
Pages: 152
Genre: Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've heard a lot of people talk about it in the past year.
Date Completed: 4/5/17

Summary: Coates writes about his own journey, his hopes for his son, and what it means to be a black man in America

What I Thought: I have heard this book talked up so much in the last year or so. I was anxious to read it for myself and see why Coates' words have made such an impression on so many.

Coates frames the book as a letter to his son. He tells him about his own childhood in Baltimore, the violence on the streets, his college days at Howard in D.C., his first encounters with police violence, his response to the post-9/11 world, his hopes and fears for his son. The book centers around what it means to Coates to be a black man in America - the dreams, the struggles, the fears. 

There were definitely parts of this book that were uncomfortable for me. As a white woman from the Midwest, I've had a very different life experience than Coates'. Violence has never felt like an inevitable part of my story or the story of my family and friends. So, confronting that reality for others is hard. It's hard to place myself in Coates' shoes, but I know it's important. His perspective on the world stems from what he has seen and experienced, just as mine stems from my own journey. We don't spend enough time listening to each other's stories enough, in my opinion. It's not an easy task. There were ideas and issues that I innately pushed back against here. It's hard for me to understand the anger Coates feels at times. But, he belongs in this country just as much as I do and I want it to be a place where we can both feel welcome and safe. To me, that starts with listening to each other.

So, while Coates' writing style was not my favorite and his harsh, hurting feelings sometimes felt covered in the shine of pretty language, this book gave me new perspective. It helped me, even for a moment, see the world through a different lens. I see why this book has been powerful for so many, particularly black men. I kept wondering if, had I been born a different person, I would see truth in near every line as I do when reading Rachel Held Evans. I imagine others nodding along and murmuring their agreement as they read Coates' words. 

I have a lot of books on my TBR which explore the idea of race in America. I recognize this as a weak spot in my own knowledge and understanding, so I'm trying to learn. I say this not to glorify myself, but more to share my journey. I know I have a long way to go here. This is a starting point for me. I hope in a year or two, I can come back to Coates book with a better understanding of his words. Until then, I want to keep reading, keep learning, keep fighting for an America that protects and celebrates each of her citizens. 

Quotes I Loved:

  • "Americans deify democracy in a way that allows for a dim awareness that they have, from time to time, stood in defiance of their God."
  • "I knew that Prince [Jones] was not killed by a single officer so much as he was murdered by his country and all the fears that have marked it from birth. "

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Yeah, possibly
If You Liked This, Try: Radical / My Life on the Road / I Am Malala

A Reduced Review: Coates' memoir is framed as a letter to his son, but it carries a message for all of us. 

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