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An important book to read to learn about the lives of Black Americans. I learned a lot in the advice/guidance Coates was providing his son.
At once introspective & profoundly honest, Coates' colloquial-inundated epistle is ratting, brutal, touching, & may have a twinge of hopeful despair (forgiving the contradiction in terms). The discussion & introspection about "race" & the socialisation of supposed ethnographical self-identification are almost alarmingly recounted--while the story almost holds a film-like revisiting of the shared memories of both father and son (the Michael Brown and Treyvon Martin mentions are very emotional, & outside of his perspective very unique.)
This book pulls no punches, & is heightened tremendously through the author's magnetic, meaning-rich voice: the only one that could recount these words.
This book was written as a letter from a father to his 15-year-old son about what it means to have a black body and be a black boy/man in America. It was awesome with great writing. I connected to this in a couple of big ways: I am the same age bracket as the author and his language around “the Dream” really hit home for me….I loved it! (Submitted by JF).
See my review at
No reason to rehash the importance of this series of letters Coates wrote to his son about his life growing up black. Should be required reading of all Americans.
I must admit I had some difficulty reading Mr. Coates's book. Perhaps because the book was written in a form of stream of consciousness. It began on one page and continued on . . . no chapters, no segments, nothing. Just one long statement. I am not ridiculing, just making a statement.
Also, I have nothing in common with the author. Which is one reason why I chose to read his book, in an effort to gain some understanding. Usually I can come away from such an encounter with at least a different point of view, but in this situation, I got nothing but bitterness from the author.
I have read other books by writers of color. I have friends of color and culture. But . . . and I can not put my finger on it, maybe I am not ready for his work, maybe I never will be. Maybe he and I both have some growing to do.
I enjoyed the book quite a bit, it took me a couple pages to fully take in his writing, but it was beautiful and I really appreciated learning about his experiences and life.
Since there are so many positive reviews, I felt that I should say that I did not find the ideas in this book especially new or interesting. I continued to read it because it has so many positive reviews and I thought maybe I was missing something. I did like the last 1/4 the best. I think this would have been better as a magazine article since there was a lot of repetition and not enough substance to fill a book.
I had to sit with some discomfort on this one, which I hope is good for me. My first response was to say that this book, while moving, didn't really resonate with me personally. It is incredibly well-written, almost a prose poem in many places, but I am not a Black man, and while I have a son I cannot begin to imagine what Black parents go through.
Then I reminded myself that doesn't excuse me from trying. This is a shut-up-and-listen moment, not a shut-down-ears moment.
As I said, Coates writes in a very prose poetry style. One review I noticed on the Goodreads page said that the reviewer described it as stream-of-consciousness, and I think that's close - but not what Coates is shooting for. The writing is too refined for that. It's written as a letter to Coates's teenage son, who is as of the time of the writing starting to see a target on his own back. Coates is trying to explain to him what it's like to find a place in this world that can be home.
Coates doesn't call it home, and bear in mind that I think he would disagree with me calling it that. He calls it Mecca, a place where people come to be and learn. For him, it's a HBCU that really changed his life. A good part of the book is talking about that, what it means to him, and how he wants his son to find one for himself. Coates does not insist that his son find the same places to be meaningful. He does believe that the Mecca is critical to finding shelter from a cruel and uncaring world.
The more I read, the more I was able to relate his experiences to my own geek-girlness. While I do not and will not draw any meaningful comparison between the experiences of a privileged white woman and a Black man who could be killed by police because he looked at them crosswise, I can edge into a fragment of relation because I was beaten up for being a geek girl and for being bisexual. I know that a time will come when I cannot protect my children, and the thought of that being from birth rends me open.
Five of five stars.
'Between the World and Me' by Ta-Nehisi Coates was a good read. However, Coates writing style isn't to my liking. I found it made his arguments more amorphous and less clear to me. I'm not so sure that I actually understood him. And yet what I think I understood I liked.
There is nobody more eloquent, nobody more deep and thoughtful, nobody more insightful, nobody more powerful, nobody more strong and wise and in your face and just plain honest than Ta-Nehisi Coates. If you've ever read anything he's written in The Atlantic, which is where I first became a big fan, you know he's not a simple, quick read. He isn't writing to make you laugh. He isn't trying to get rich. He isn't particularly concerned with you, it seems. He is concerned, it seems to me, with learning hard life stories and sharing them in beautiful, powerful language.
Honestly, it takes me twice as long to read some authors than others. Some authors write so much like a friend talking to you on the phone that you breeze through their stories and laugh and learn a thing or two and feel great or smarter after you're done. This author, in everything he's written that I've read, is so eloquent that you can't just read while watching TV or on your laptop checking your mail. Or not paying 100 percent attention to what and how he is conveying information and knowledge. And it's knowledge you can get from this particular book: knowledge of what he knows about being in a black body in this time and place. And it's something I have no idea how you do without having a huge attitude. Instead, reading this is a guidebook to how to get through a day without getting resentful of circumstances and history. And how to get through a day without anger and blame. And how to be the best you can be, if you think about each word and really let it sink in.
Hello, I was out of the office and didn't get email confirmation until today, please leave book on hold will pick it up by Wednesday.
Coates produced a classic. For all of you who heard about it, or even have it, and have not actually read it-- Now is the time. Read the book! We need the conversation, so do the homework!
Coates ‘letter’ to his son about being a person of color in the US when the American Dream is seen by most who think of themselves as white through a different lens.
He says: “Perhaps that was, is, the hope of the movement: to awaken the Dreamers, to rouse them to the facts of what their need is to be white, to talk like they are white, to think like they are white, which is to think beyond the design flaws of humanity, has done to the world.’ Powerful.
"Dreamers" in America are those who consider themselves to be of the "White Race," which, in their minds, makes them superior to all those who do not to appear to be of the "White Race." Actually, there is no scientific basic for the 17th century concept known as "Race," a concept developed by northern Europeans for the purpose of justifying their horrific plunder of the non-European world. Today many individuals cling to their "Dream" because this automatically prevents them from being at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. Only when these "Dreamers" realize their "Dream" is an unscientific concept developed by their ancestors to justify their lives of plunder will "White Supremacy" disappear in America.
Between the World and Me is an essay/letter written by Coates which is meant for his son. He writes about race relations in America and what it’s like growing up as an African American male. He doesn’t try to make any major points about race relations nor does he try to explain it. Rather, he just writes about his experience growing up and his concerns about his son’s future. Coates stated that racism was not something that could be eradicated, but was a part of American history and tradition. This a deeply personal book and is full of substance. It does not provide optimism that things will be better nor does it provide the answer to racism. It is simply a reflection of personal experiences and how he is concerned about his son’s future. I personally enjoyed this book because of how authentic it feels. I think this book is a 5/5 and is a must read for anyone.
- @SuperSilk of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library
I knew this book was being compared to the works of James Baldwin when I started reading it, and for me it didn’t come anywhere close. I’ve liked what I’ve read by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic, but I didn’t feel the same about this book. The book is addressed to Coates’s son, Samori. It’s supposed to be reminiscent of James Baldwin’s letter to his nephew, but that brief letter feels like it was truly written for Baldwin’s nephew. In Between the World and Me the book never feels like it really is for Samori. It is aimed at us, the readers. There is no sense at all of who his son is as a person or their family. There is no intersectionality in the book, with Samori’s mother almost being a passing character.
An incredibly dense book. Every sentence is heavy with thought and expression. It is very well written, progressive and is sure to stimulate some deep thinking. If you use audio books, this is an excellent one to listen to. The author narrates it and his voice adds impact. It is a powerful reading experience.
In these letters to his son, the author tries to explain what it is like to be black in America. He talks about the existing racism and the divide between the races. He tries to emphasize the dangers his son will face--dangers a white person wouldn't even consider a danger. The book is open and honest. It looks at our history and where we are now. Very relevant to our times.
Beautifully written and heartfelt, this book is important modern social and racial commentary with eye opening revelations made so by the genuine and un-embellished honesty with which it was written.
This book is so very intelligent and perceptive; it almost reads like a meditation or poem in its imagery and conciseness of thought. I am distressed by the awesome Truth of it (mine is a righteousness, judgmental distress), because secretly I know it masks my participation as a *person who believes she is White* and subscribes to The Dream that Coates explores.
But it’s not a book for the masses – those who make up the racist society Coates writes about would likely dismiss his reasoning. I agree with the Toni Morrison quote on the book jacket that This is required reading for anyone who wants to grapple with Why racism is so rampant in our society.
Both brilliantly insightful and beautifully written.
A really interesting book, if not for the people who spoiled the fun of it.
Rarely does a book live up to the hype. This was an eye-opening read. Take time, savor it and engage people in your community who may be different then you. Wonderfully written.