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Between the World and Me

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,4612971,414 (4.36)410
"For Ta-Nehisi Coates, history has always been personal. At every stage of his life, he's sought in his explorations of history answers to the mysteries that surrounded him -- most urgently, why he, and other black people he knew, seemed to live in fear. What were they afraid of? In Tremble for My Country, Coates takes readers along on his journey through America's history of race and its contemporary resonances through a series of awakenings -- moments when he discovered some new truth about our long, tangled history of race, whether through his myth-busting professors at Howard University, a trip to a Civil War battlefield with a rogue historian, a journey to Chicago's South Side to visit aging survivors of 20th century America's 'long war on black people,' or a visit with the mother of a beloved friend who was shot down by the police. In his trademark style -- a mix of lyrical personal narrative, reimagined history, essayistic argument, and reportage -- Coates provides readers a thrillingly illuminating new framework for understanding race: its history, our contemporary dilemma, and where we go from here"--… (more)
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English (290)  French (2)  Piratical (1)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (295)
Showing 1-5 of 290 (next | show all)
I don't think I have anything significant to add to the conversation on this. Only that this straight haired, blue eyed suburbanite is very glad to live in a world that brought her this book. Everyone is no doubt going to say for everyone to read it. Everyone is right. Read this book. ( )
  amyotheramy | May 11, 2021 |
I'm not sure who "Between the World and Me" was written for, though I did ask myself this question various times while reading it. I assume the book's epistolary framing -- it's written as a letter to Coates's son -- is more or less a literary device. But I think the distance referred to in the title -- the gulf that separates white experiences of the United States from black experiences of the United States -- is the book's other main preoccupation, and, in making it a central theme of his book, the author is specifically addressing his white readers. Coates takes aim, in other words, at white innocence.

Much of "Between the World and Me" concerns itself with describing the more difficult aspects of the black American experience. The author makes it clear to his reader that he considers being black in the United States to be a direct threat to his bodily integrity. The book is filled with the bluntest bodily metaphors imaginable: black bodies are constantly stolen, pillaged, and broken by both a system designed by white people and the black people who live in it. The author wants to make it clear that being black implies a certain risk and a certain fear: race and racism aren't about this or that minor incident, it's an experience that black people are never allowed to fully escape. In discussing white ideas about the United States -- which he refers to throughout as the Dream -- Coates makes it clear that he thinks that black Americans pay a real price for white Americans' innocence and that their misconceptions are not without real effect. The very real barrier between the America that Ta-Nehehisi was shown on TV and his own experience of the same country is what stands between the world and himself. The metaphor the author employs here might be said to be Platonic: Coates's years to step into the light of the world beyond American conceptions of race. This is an optimistic book, I think, in the end but not one one that provides too many easy answers or strives to forget what black Americans have lived through. I happen to agree with Coates on a lot of things, but even so, speaking as a white American, this was not a comfortable book to read. So much of "Between the World and Me" is what white Americans will have to give up to achieve true racial equality and to fulfill a promise that a lot of them believe was fulfilled a long time ago. I doubt a lot of them will read this book, but, well, them's the breaks.

"Between the World and Me" is certainly a political book, but, at the same time, it's also a surprisingly personal one. The book also functions as a sort of family memoir -- the author's family was fiercely protective of him, but fear seemed to play a larger role in their emotional lives than love did. They were also, unlike most of the black community, thorough non-believers who had no time at all for religiously oriented solutions to racial issues. Coates's upbringing was also unusual in that he seems always to have inhabited two worlds at once: his grandfather was a librarian at Howard University and he grew up in a house full of books while also attending a severely underfunded Baltimore public school where he had to dodge gang members every day. Many of his close relatives died deaths that were other than natural. Coates's didn't just learn about the problems facing black Americans during his trips to the library.

Right, the library! "Between the World and Me" could also be called a personal intellectual biography and a paean to Howard University, where Coates experienced the the thrilling breadth and depth of the global black experience -- what he calls the Spectrum -- and where he first encounters the black thinkers and artists with which he keeps up a dialogue throughout the book. The author is admirably forthright about his intellectual development, explaining why he was attracted to -- but later came to disagree with -- the views of Malcolm X. A library rat of the highest order, Coates seems to have devoured half of the Howard collection on his way to the realization that that many of black America's leading thinkers have always disagreed with each other. Coates's education -- and his time at Howard seems to have been an education in every sense of the word -- eventually helps put the American black experience -- and his own experience -- in a more global, humanistic context. It's progress that's hard won: it's not easy to admit that you've made mistakes in your past, never mind admitting it in print.

In the closing pages of "Between the World and Me", the author seems to come to understand what it might mean to transcend race, if only in some respects. He does this by traveling outside the United States, to France, where he finds himself less a black American than just another American. As a grown-up third culture kid and lifelong expat, I can feel him on this one. His time in France seems to close a sort of personal circle for him -- he even picks up the French classes that seemed so mysteriously useless to him in high school. But this physical journey, and the feeling of liberation that the author seems to feel at its end, also serves as a neat parallel to Coates's own remarkable progress in life, which stretches from mapping out gang territories in the roughest parts of Baltimore to hanging around parks in Paris. This one may not be for everyone. I'm sure some readers will find the book's tone to be too intense for their liking, but I suspect that this reflects Ta-Nehisi own personality and would prefer a less personal take on American racial relations. But "Between the World and Me" is still a success, a remarkable book that weaves the personal and political together effortlessly. Urgent, shocking, convincing and -- most of all -- recommended. ( )
  TheAmpersand | Apr 30, 2021 |
This is an important read, especially for those who—like me—haven't lived the experience. Intellectually, I know that there is an issue with the way people of color (and especially Black people) are treated in the United States. But I haven't lived that experience, and so it was hard to wrap my head around how bad it was. I still haven't lived the experience, but now, after reading this book, I have had it described to me in a way I can internalize it.

For its honesty though, this book is also gentle. It was written with love, as a letter from a father to a son, and that shows in the writing. It is harsh, because the reality is harsh... but it is also kind, because it was written with love. This is a book that I think all Americans should read, especially those who haven't had to live the experiences described in its pages. ( )
  ca.bookwyrm | Apr 13, 2021 |
I don't know how to review this book. I listened to it, and it was read by the author, which I think gave it even more gravitas than it would already have. I felt white guilt, horror, and helplessness while reading it. As often happens when I watch the news these days, I couldn't help but think, "How do we fix this?" Any answers to that would be appreciated. ( )
  ssperson | Apr 3, 2021 |
Ta-Nehisi Coates writes beautifully. I loved his book The Water Dancer, and like that book there are passages in this one that made me stop and marvel that anyone can be possessed of so much skill with words.

Written as a letter to his 15 year old son, Between the World and Me is an autobiographical recounting of the anger and frustration, the worry and fear of a Black father for his son's future. It's an attempt to arm his son with some of the knowledge he will need to navigate the world. It's a reflection on Race, and on the damaging power to Black bodies of the "Dream" of those who "believe themselves to be White". It's also a story of personal growth by a man who acknowledges he is not perfect and still has things to learn himself.

It's an instant classic. It's a must read, as Toni Morrison said. I don't know what took me so long to read it.

I rate Between the World and Me 4 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - I really liked it and am glad I read it. It moved me, and I recommend it. ( )
  stevrbee | Mar 31, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 290 (next | show all)
Between the World and Me is, in important ways, a book written toward white Americans, and I say this as one them. White Americans may need to read this book more urgently and carefully than anyone, and their own sons and daughters need to read it as well. This is not to say this is a book about white people, but rather that it is a terrible mistake for anyone to assume that this is just a book about nonwhite people. In the broadest terms Between the World and Me is about the cautious, tortured, but finally optimistic belief that something beyond these categories persists. Implicit in this book’s existence is a conviction that people are fundamentally reachable, perhaps not all of them but enough, that recognition and empathy are within grasp, that words and language are capable of changing people, even if—especially if—those words are not ones people prefer to hear.
added by elenchus | editslate.com, Jack Hamilton (Jul 9, 2015)
 
In the scant space of barely 160 pages, Atlantic national correspondent Coates (The Beautiful Struggle) has composed an immense, multifaceted work. This is a poet's book, revealing the sensibility of a writer to whom words—exact words—matter....It's also a journalist's book, not only because it speaks so forcefully to issues of grave interest today, but because of its close attention to fact...As a meditation on race in America, haunted by the bodies of black men, women, and children, Coates's compelling, indeed stunning, work is rare in its power to make you want to slow down and read every word. This is a book that will be hailed as a classic of our time.
added by theaelizabet | editPublishers Weekly
 

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ta-Nehisi Coatesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cornets de Groot, Rutger H.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cunningham, CarolineDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mollica, GregCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
And one morning while in the woods I stumbled suddenly upon the thing,

Stumbled upon it in a grassy clearing guarded by scaly oaks and elms

And the sooty details of the scene rose, thrusting themselves between the world and me...


—Richard Wright
Dedication
For David and Kenyatta,
who believed
First words
Son,
Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"For Ta-Nehisi Coates, history has always been personal. At every stage of his life, he's sought in his explorations of history answers to the mysteries that surrounded him -- most urgently, why he, and other black people he knew, seemed to live in fear. What were they afraid of? In Tremble for My Country, Coates takes readers along on his journey through America's history of race and its contemporary resonances through a series of awakenings -- moments when he discovered some new truth about our long, tangled history of race, whether through his myth-busting professors at Howard University, a trip to a Civil War battlefield with a rogue historian, a journey to Chicago's South Side to visit aging survivors of 20th century America's 'long war on black people,' or a visit with the mother of a beloved friend who was shot down by the police. In his trademark style -- a mix of lyrical personal narrative, reimagined history, essayistic argument, and reportage -- Coates provides readers a thrillingly illuminating new framework for understanding race: its history, our contemporary dilemma, and where we go from here"--

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