Saturday, January 4, 2020

Nonfiction Review: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Title: Between the World and Me
Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Year Published: 2015


Genre: Adult nonfiction
Pages: 152
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA (IL, MD, NY)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): 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.

Review: This year I am hoping to exapand my knowledge of social justice issues so I've joined the Social Justice Nonfiction Challenge and this is the first book for that challenge. I've heard quite a bit about how amazing this author is so I was looking forward to reading this book. And Toni Morrison said "This book is required reading." What more could one need to prompt reading this book?!

This book is so personal. Through his stories of his own growing up and that of his son, Coates discusses what it is to be black in America. The worries, the glories, attending The Mecca (Howard University) and begin surrounded by black people, being angry, loving, and more. Here are some of my favorite bits:

  • America's problem is not its betrayal of "government of the people," but the means by which "the people" acquired their names. (p 6)
  • The destroyer will rarely be held accountable. (p 9)
  • ...everyday life was so different than the dream that it demanded an explanation. (p 49)
  • You are a black boy, and must be responsible for your body in a way that other boys cannot know. (p71)
  • In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body--it is heritage. (p 103)
  • You exist. You matter. You have value. (p 113)
Challenges for which this counts: 
For the PopSugar challenge, this book has a great first line: "Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body."
 


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