Category: Non-fiction 

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis (Goodreads): In a series of essays, written as a letter to his son, Coates confronts the notion of race in America and how it has shaped American history, many times at the cost of black bodies and lives. Thoughtfully exploring personal and historical events, from his time at Howard University to the Civil War, the author poignantly asks and attempts to answer difficult questions that plague modern society. In this short memoir, the “Atlantic” writer explains that the tragic examples of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and those killed in South Carolina are the results of a systematically constructed and maintained assault to black people–a structure that includes slavery, mass incarceration, and police brutality as part of its foundation. From his passionate and deliberate breakdown of the concept of race itself to the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, Coates powerfully sums up the terrible history of the subjugation of black people in the United States. A timely work, this title will resonate with all teens–those who have experienced racism as well as those who have followed the recent news coverage on violence against people of color.

Comments: 

I first read Between the World and Me at the beginning of this year, and re-read it for a book club recently. Usually when a book has been hyped up so much, I am wary of falling prey to the hype and reading it because ‘everyone else is reading it’.

Two things:

  • This book is in that rare category that lives up to the hype
  • I believe it is also a book that you will need to read several times to truly appreciate the importance of the message

Even while re-reading this book for the second time I was realizing how difficult it would be for me to write a traditional review.

Given the stories of violence and police brutality against unarmed black men that have been emerging from the US over the last couple of years, this book could not have come along at a better time.

Written as a letter to his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates passionately and thought-provokingly explores what it feels like to grow up as a black man in a modern-day American society where there is an inherent need to protect one’s African-American body, and that of their children, from the Streets, from the school system, and even from the law – a need driven by a fear that exists not so much from a failing of society and the American system but because it is an integral part of the system that has evolved since the days when slavery existed.

One of the things that really resonated with me from the book was the author writing that “Serious history was the West, and the West was white”. As a high school student, I always struggled to enjoy history lessons because memorizing battle dates and learning about the formation of the League of Nations was not something I could really relate to or identify it – it was not the history of the world around me. Only after I left school, and even then through independent reading and searching, did I discover the depth and richness of Indian, African, Asian, and other “non-white” history.

This is not a book offering answers or advice on how to ‘deal with’ the race question. What it is, is an extremely well-written and candid account of a black father’s personal experiences and thoughts about growing up in America and his fears and hopes for his son.

One of my friends from book club said during our discussion last night that this was such a depressing book, mainly because the truths it highlights make it such a difficult read. This is exactly why I think everyone SHOULD read and discuss this book – attitudes to race will take generations to change but we have to start somewhere. Reading this book is it.

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About LookyBooky

I'm a compulsive reader always in search of new adventures. I love learning through travel and seeing the world through my camera lens. The books are ALWAYS better than the movies. I enjoy nothing more than a good book argument so feel free to disagree with me - it might lead to a fun conversation!

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