We Were Eight Years in Power

We Were Eight Years in Power

An American Tragedy

Book - 2017 | First edition
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'We were eight years in power' was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America's 'first white president.' But the story of these present-day eight years is not just about presidential politics. The essays also examine the new voices, ideas, and movements for justice that emerged over this period -- and the effects of the persistent shadow of our nation's old and unreconciled history. Coates relays the events of the Obama era from his intimate and revealing perspective: the point of view of a young writer who begins the journey in an unemployment office in Harlem and ends it in the Oval Office, interviewing a president. Some of the pieces first published in The Atlantic, including 'Fear of a Black President,' 'The Case for Reparations,' and 'The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration.' Eight fresh essays revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates's own experiences, observations, and intellectual development, capped by an assessment of the election that fully illuminated the tragedy of the Obama era.
Publisher: New York : One World, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, [2017]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780399590566
Branch Call Number: 973.932 COA 2017
Characteristics: xvii, 367 pages ; 25 cm

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d
dvonne
Apr 07, 2019

ta-nehisi coates calls donald trump the "first white president". if this were true, it would indeed be of interest. however, coates fails to mention that, of all the presidents, only two have NOT been white: the african-american barack obama, and the chinese grover cleveland. this seems like a big oversight, and made me doubt the veracity of some of his other research. what's funny is that this is a book about race, and i had to "race" to finish it before it was due back at the library. i'm kind of a slow reader

m
meeshmorgan
Feb 23, 2019

A FIVE star searing book!
I grew up as a white girl in inner-city LA and I know the difference between poverty and poverty consciousness. I imagined I knew what it might be to be poor and black. I knew nothing!
This book lays bare facts I dimly comprehended as well as explaining the unfathomable appointment of Donald Trump.
I found this grueling and upsetting to read, but I struggled through it although gaining such insight was painful making me feel furious and helpless. Yet, I was only reading this, NOT experiencing it!
My education began with Malcolm Gladwell's Blink and other books by Gladwell and progressed with Ta -Nehisi Coates.

a
autumnwind
Feb 21, 2019

We, were eight years in power and I am white?
I trusted Coates narrative when he wrote of his own!
This tears st the very fabric of trust as a people We is different, for different people today and going forward!
There must be Respect for one another and Trust! As a Society WE need to talk and I believe this book shuts down future conversation.

Chapel_Hill_MarthaW Dec 06, 2018

The best essay in here is the most famous -- "The Case for Reparations", which garnered a lot of attention when it was first published in The Atlantic, which is where I originally read it -- but there's other quality writing in here as well. The thing with Ta-Nehisi Coates is that, even when you don't 100% agree with what he's saying (which I don't -- I find his outlook to be so unrelentingly bleak as to reach the point of being entirely unhelpful at times), he expresses it so well, with such beautiful writing, that you enjoy reading it nonetheless. Well worth a read, even if it's, in my opinion, not up to the level of "Between the World and Me".

r
rlbeekman
Dec 03, 2018

Pieces from the author's 8 years at The Atlantic plus framing and introductions for each article emphasizing its place in the author's career and life. Much better book than Between the World and Me -- probably because the author's self-involvement, being largely confined to the personal "packing material," doesn't intrude as much on the actual essays and reporting. Chapter 6 on reparations is the most famous, but Coates claims that Chapter 8, "My President Was Black," is his favorite. That is a pretty good article if one is willing to admit that it shows Obama to be a better political and moral thinker than Coates -- which I'm not sure was Coates's intention or view! I think that the best chapters are Chapter 5, "Fear of a Black President," and Chapter 7, "The Black Family in the Age of Incarceration," the longest and best researched. After reading those chapters, I was ready to rate the book as 4 1/2 or 5 stars. But then I read the one-sided and strained arguments of the last part of the Epilogue; they were so cranky (in all senses of that word) that they knocked my rating down to 4 stars. Still -- a very worthwhile book.

j
jr3083
Oct 16, 2018

This book is a compilation of long-form essays, one for each of the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency. Each essay is prefaced with a 2018-dated reflection on the article and the circumstances in which it was written. There is a dialogue going on at two levels: Coates explaining and challenging himself as author at an earlier time, and the laying out of an argument from author to reader in the essay itself. ...
I don’t know whether Coates “grew into” himself as a writer, or whether there is a qualitative difference between the earlier essays in this book and the ones that came later. Perhaps the opening chapters were more current (at the time), or required a familiarity with Black History which I don’t have. For me, as a reader, the intensity of his writing really cranked up with his essay from the Fifth Year, ‘Fear of a Black President.’ This chapter was followed by his Atlantic cover story ‘The Case For Reparations’, which was awarded the George Polk Awards. Here, he demonstrates the structural basis of racism in passionate, logical, informed writing. He extends the argument into his Seventh Year article ‘The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration’. The final chapters reflect the sorrow that twenty-first century ‘eight years’ have led to Trump and such a vulgar reassertion of white supremacy. For this is just how Coates calls it – structural racism to bolster white supremacy – without any liberal loopholes....
These are excellent exemplars of the long form essay, running in some cases to over fifty pages in length. They show the shuttling of an argument from the personal to the political and back again, and the balancing of data and anecdote.

For my complete review see
https://residentjudge.com/2018/10/16/we-were-eight-years-in-power-an-american-tragedy-by-ta-nehisi-coates/

l
larters
Jul 12, 2018

An absolutely searing book, cogently and starkly laying out the history of oppression that has led to the massive inequalities in the American state. The painful history of structural racism against the black community is documented extensively in Coates' lucid prose. A must read.

b
bba1
May 15, 2018

This was an amazing book

CMLibrary_gjd_0 Apr 10, 2018

Mr. Coates always teaches me something when I read his work and this book is no exception! He reminds me again and again that the world I live in is not always the same as the one he's forced to navigate. This is his best work to date; the essays when first written are often quite on point, his reflections on them even more so. I haven't quite finished yet, because honestly it takes some gumption for this white girl to make it through these situations. Please keep writing and I promise to keep reading to learn what I don't know. Thank you for your time and education!

PS Great author to take of the Black Panther comic series, Marvel was very smart indeed!!

a
AaronAardvark1940
Feb 24, 2018

Despite having read various things by black writers and about blacks, I was completely unprepared for the revelatory experience this book gave me. It is tightly reasoned, heavily researched and highly referenced, yet clearly a very emotional effort. It is a wonderful history of the author’s evolution during the eight years of the Obama presidency.
Chapter 6, “The Case For Reparations,” is the most emotionally draining and intellectually challenging section of the book for me. I recently read Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” and found the parallels between Jurgis Rudkus’ fictional experience and Clyde Ross’ real experience very disheartening, despite my previous knowledge of redlining (how little I really knew!). Shortly after reading Chapter 6, I read Rebecca Burns’ rent control essay in the March issue of In These Times, further reinforcing my distress.
For those concerned about my use of the word “black,” it is the most common nomenclature used by Coates. He uses “African American” sparingly, and his second most-used name is not one I may repeat here.
Finally, I highly recommend this book. Despite my great respect for the book and its author, I am probably too old and too white to ever absorb all of this into my Weltanschuung.

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CMLibrary_gjd_0 May 09, 2018

pg 159 For Americans, the hardest part of paying reparations would not be the outlay of money. It would be acknowledging that their most cherished myth is not real.

CMLibrary_gjd_0 May 09, 2018

pg 125 Barack Obama governs a nation enlightened enough to send an African American to the White House, but not enlightened enough to accept a black man as president.

CMLibrary_gjd_0 May 09, 2018

pg 62 We forget that there were those who loved that old country as it was, who did not lament the divisions but drew power from them.

CMLibrary_gjd_0 May 09, 2018

pg 39 We struggle to avoid our feelings, because to actually consider all that was taken, to understand that it was taken systemically, that the taking is essential to America and echoes down through the ages, could make you crazy.

CMLibrary_gjd_0 May 09, 2018

pg 10: I know now that that hunger is a retreat from the knotty present into myth and that what ultimately awaits those who retreat into fair tales, who seek refuge in the mad pursuit to be made great again, in the image of greatness that new was, is tragedy.

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