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Between the World and Me

by Ta-Nehisi COATES

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6,5273331,259 (4.36)432
"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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» See also 432 mentions

English (324)  French (3)  Spanish (2)  Piratical (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (331)
Showing 1-5 of 324 (next | show all)
I listened to this book narrated by the author, Ta-Nahisi Coates. I had read Coates’ book “We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy” and knew immediately that he was a major American writer. His writing is nothing short of masterful. Having said that, I must say, getting through “Between the World and Me” was difficult, but I’m glad I did. Coates apologizes for nothing related to his race, nor should he. In fact he holds much of what the nonviolent civil rights fighters’ stood for in disdain. His heroes were his father’s Black Panther brothers. Brothers like Malcolm X. Coates’ theme through out this book, which is a letter to his son, is that the capture and control of a Black person’s body is as much a threat today as it was in the South during slavery. He can’t help but see his son in the Black men of the past couple of decades who have died because they were Black: Trevon Martin, Michael Brown, and enough others to fill an entire Wikipedia page. In fact, there are so many Wikipedia has to separate them by the year they were slain. And the one that struck Coates to the quick: Prince Jones. Jones was undoubtedly the Perfect Black Man at Howard University, Coates’ alma mater. Jones’s death affected Coates in a life-changing way, a way that caused him to fear for his son’s life as he grew up. Coates’ faith in his country and his people’s ability to make it in this world was shaken to its core by Jones’s death at the hands of the police. The book will shake anyone’s faith in this country, and leave that person with a doubt about whether the promise of Dr. Martin Luther King can ever be realized. This is an important book for people of all races but most especially people of the White race. ( )
1 vote DanDiercks | Sep 13, 2022 |
I came to this book via Geraldine Brooks' 2022 novel Horse, which explores a history of slavery in the USA (including the continuing implications today), through the largely true story of an enslaved groom/trainer of a famous horse from the 1850s, in parallel with the present day interaction between an Australian scientist (Jess) and a Nigerian- American art historian (Theo) who share an unlikely connection to that horse. (see review of that book here).

Coates is referenced by Theo in an internal dialogue, thinking that Jess does not 'get' life in the USA for a member of the black community (even those well educated, employed) and probably doesn't read the widely published commentary of Ta-Nehisi Coates.

So I picked up a copy of this book, which takes the form of 3 letters from Coates to his son, exploring 'What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it [in the USA]? And how can America reckon with [the USA's] fraught racial history?'

[to be completed] ( )
  bigship | Sep 12, 2022 |
I started this book in 2016, and the reason I gave for abandoning it was that it was "too difficult" to get through. In my memory this came to mean emotionally difficult, but when I started listening to it again from the beginning (on 1.25 speed by accident...I can't emphasize enough how much of a mistake that was), I remembered that it was because it was too complex for my tiny brain to concentrate on.

This is a rich, dense book that merges theory and memoir, the academic and poetic, and breaks down the conspiracy of the relationship between race and racism in a profound, moving way. This book helped me understand things that I've been confused about, and I would recommend it to anyone, regardless of their political affiliation. He's also distinctly atheistic and nonreligious in his position and treatment of his experiences, which was a definite departure from the Black fiction that I've read so far this year, but the ultimate conclusion of those perspectives seemed to me to be that the body is the spirit. ( )
  graceandbenji | Sep 1, 2022 |
4/5 (rounded up because of the beautiful writing)

This is a memoir structured as three letters from Coates to his son. The structure roughly follows Coates life, with frequent connections to the future or the past as thematically appropriate. If your main exposure to Coates is his hard-hitting, eye-opening Atlantic article, The Case for Reparations, then you are likely to start this out a bit bewildered and perhaps disappointed. This is not because this is a memoir but because, unlike in that article, Coates almost under defines things. This is my main frustration with this book. Much of his reflection and criticism is aimed at "the Dream" but he never really defines what the Dream is. It has something to do with people who believe themselves to be white. It has something to do with suburbia. It has something to do with rampant capitalism. But it, like so much else in this book, is so amorphous that it can be reshaped to fit whatever point Coates is currently making.

The brilliance of this book comes from Coates' use of language to paint vivid pictures. What he captures with this, the point that rings clear and true throughout the book, is that the tragedy of racism in the United States today is that wherever they are, however they succeed by the standards set up by white America, what black people lack is "the right to secure and govern [their] own bodies". Experience after experience that Coates relates emphasizes this point. This reality and the fear that it points to tie the book together.

As an atheist, I also appreciate Coates atheism. I can see how many people could see it as a depressing part of the book. Coates makes clear that by not being religious he misses out on a source of comfort that many others in his world are able to utilize to their advantage. However, his atheism also leads him to profoundly value the individual human. We, in this mind and this body, are all that we ever will be. This makes the violation of black bodies even more of a violence because death is complete destruction.

At the end of the day, I am left with a much deeper impression of what it is like to be black in America but I am also left struggling to understand what Coates actually said. Coates has written a perspective changing book that I consider a must read, but one which is not quite as profound as you think it is while you're reading it. ( )
  eri_kars | Jul 10, 2022 |
In this book, Coates addresses his young son on race and the body – the agency (or lack thereof) of young black men in America. I’m not even gonna lie: a lot of this went over my head. Like, a lot. It’s deeply philosophical and personal but also cynical and melancholy. This book took me all month to read because it required so much reflection and research. Using sticky tabs, I annotated a shit-ton of this book so I can return to passages – especially once I add more required reading (i.e. Baldwin, Ellison, Du Bois) to my library. ( )
  MC_Rolon | Jun 15, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 324 (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
COATES, Ta-Nehisiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
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.
Quotations
Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains—whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains.
At that point in American history, no police department fired its guns more than that of Prince George's County.
Shortly before you were born, I was pulled over by the PG County cops...I sat there in terror...He handed back my license. He gave no explanation for the stop.
The need to forgive the officer would not have moved me, back because even then, in some inchoate form, I knew that Prince was not killed by a single officer so much as he was murdered by his country and all the fears that have marked it from birth.
The plunder of black life was drilled into this country in its infancy and reinforced across its history, so that plunder has become an heirloom, an intelligence, a sentience, a default setting to which, likely to the end of our days, we must invariably return.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

"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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