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Ta-Nehisi Coates: Between the World and Me
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These days, Coates is a prominent journalist for the Atlantic where his tendency to puncture sunny-side-up political platitudes has not abated. It is understandable, then, that there has been a lot of fanfare for Between the World and Me. In part, the book is an ode to writing itself. The Dream is something Coates often invokes and damns as psychically disfiguring. It is Memorial Day cookouts, block associations, and driveways … treehouses and the cub scouts.
It could hardly arrive at a more tumultuous moment. Into this storm Coates steps. A national correspondent at the Atlantic with an immensely popular blog, he has come in recent years, by dint of formidable writing talent and prolificacy, along with what can only be described as an attractive brand of humility and an earnest appetite for self-improvement, to occupy a unique place in the national conversation on race as a charismatic thought leader of the black and white left. Crucially, both of these threats for Coates amount to exactly the same thing; both flow from exactly the same poisoned wellspring of white supremacy that irrigated a country with the categorical disrespect of black life. They are, he argues, subject to larger dynamics.
Email address:. Between the World and Me. Ta-Nehisi Coates. Essays Memoir Non-Fiction Politics. Part memoir, part analysis of America's racial history, part investigation of the country's current crisis, all framed as a letter to Coates' son.
This memoir, written as a letter to the author's teenage son, is a compelling account of Ta-Nehisi Coates's growing consciousness of race and identity as he moves from being a thoughtful young boy in Baltimore to a student at Howard University and then a father and husband in New York. In it, Coates deftly reveals the insidious, everyday nature of white supremacy, and uncovers how believers of the Great American Dream are entirely complicit with the oppression of the black man. Yet in the end, Coates's lyrical sentimentality and circular arguments leave the book with little lasting potency. The narrative begins with Coates's childhood on the streets of Baltimore. Each scene is imbued with so much retrospective analysis and rendered in such florid prose that the overall effect is something quite removed from the actuality. Here is Coates describing how he felt at the age of five after seeing two shirtless boys circling each other threateningly, theatrically: "From then on, I knew that there was a ritual to street fights, bylaws and codes that, in their very need, attested to all the vulnerability of the black teenage bodies".
It takes the form of a letter from Mr. Coates to his year-old son, Samori, and speaks of the perils of living in a country where unarmed black men and boys — Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Walter L. Scott, Freddie Gray — are dying at the hands of police officers, an America where just last month nine black worshipers were shot and killed in a Charleston, S. Coates writes. They have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world. There is a Manichaean tone to some of the passages in this book, and at times, a hazardous tendency to generalize.
Marja Ziemer September 23, With sympathy and solidarity, Coates paints—or rather takes a snapshot, as photographic likeness better captures the authenticity of his bleak reality—his personal eyewitness of this certain plight. Out of sheer necessity his child is endowed with the responsibility to protect his body. The fear is visceral. Coates attributes the destruction of black bodies to the machine of violence and looting which is the American Dream.