Monday, January 28, 2019
Read by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Published July 2015 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: audiobook from my local library
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.
This one is a tough read for so many reasons. It's tough to read about the ways an entire group of people has been maltreated and kept down for 400 years. Coates descriptions of the ways slaves were punished, for example, literally nauseated me.
It's also tough to face the things you're race has done, many of them things you might not have been aware of until you read the book. I get that some of that is on me, which is why I'm trying to read more diversely and learn more. Sometimes the saying "you don't know what you don't know" is true. According to Coates, I don't know a lot.
Coates is a man who has spent much of his reading and learning. Add all of that learning to the life he has lived and it's easy to see why Coates is an angry man. He's a man whose learning has caused him to alter his own opinions over the years but it hasn't made his anger any less fierce. It's important to understand that anger exists. It's important to understand that while we may revere Dr. Martin Luther King and those he lead in peaceful protest, there are those African Americans who disagree with that method of working for change. And it's important to see that some of that anger has to do with a father worried about his young black son's future.
This is an important book, a book that asks a lot of questions. Now to find some answers.