Comments (69)Add a Comment
This book will make you uncomfortable. Of course, that is a pretty good reason to read it. Gaining a different sense of empathy is another good reason. Coates is an African-American writer. This short book is in the form of three essays written to his son, to explain his background and to explain the fears that a person labeled “black” in America has. The writer discovers, after he becomes a father, that these fears have become even more for his children than for himself.
Part of the book is an essay on racism, told through Coates’s discovery of the many different kinds of people who are labeled “black” while attending Howard University and through his changing views of “blackness” and African-American history as he read different books and met people from all over the world. He talks about “people who call themselves white”, meaning most Caucasians, and observes that racism came before the concept of “race”.
A significant section of the book is about the author’s (and his son’s) reactions to the brutal police killings of young black men in the past few years. When his son reacts to the shooting of Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, Coates remembers his shock at the death of his friend, Prince Jones, a deeply religious college student and new father, shot by an undercover African-American police officer who was following the wrong man.
This should be required reading for Americans of all races.
Vague and wandering account of how sorry Coates feels for himself. Martin Luther King would be disappointed.
A few days before the hubby and I left for Joshua Tree I saw a friend mention this book as a "game changer" on her Facebook page. I figured I'd throw it on my "for later shelf" at the library so I wouldn't forget, but I noticed the audio book was available and it was only about 3.5 hours long (which would be perfect for the short roadtrip). I scooped it up from the library and the hubby and I listened to it on the way to and from JTree. Other than hearing it was very impactful I wasn't really sure what it was about. This book is written from the father's perspective to a son. The author is telling/ teaching his son about the ways of American culture and how it is essentially built on the back of violence, terror and the backs of others. Although this book focuses on being black in America, I felt like because it was written as a "letter" from a father to a son, it wasn't as pointed as other books that come out blatantly to say "this is what's wrong with America and this is why you suck". (Don't get me wrong, I absolutely believe that the plight of blacks in America is real, despicable and something that needs to change, but some books turn off their readers because the audience doesn't like to be accused of their wrongdoings. The way this book was written I felt like I was observing an intimate conversation between a dad and his boy and was able to take away some very important knowledge without automatically being on the defense.) The hubby and I both felt as though we walked away with a better understanding of the systematic issues blacks (and other minorities) face. I think that the only thing that could have made this book better would have been to include actionable ideas on how to change the broken machine we are all a part of. I read books like this and know things need to change, but have a hard time seeing how I can help. Maybe in a tiny way being able to suggest others to read this book, question our environment and have honest and open conversations is one of the first (of many) steps I can take. I would give it a 9 out of 10.
This book, man. I come from about as polar opposite a starting point as Coates, so it took me a little bit to get into his groove despite everything I've learned and experienced to bring me closer to his perspective. His words weren't quite clicking into place at first. But then they did, and the more I read and reread the more meaning and impact I take from them. After finishing the book I went to go back and review the beginning and got so caught up I couldn't stop reading. It's that kind of book, the more you read it the better it gets. It says so much about who we are as a nation and yet makes it so personal. As has been said, it is essential and profound.
Written in the form of a letter to his teenage son, Coates describes in blunt and honest terms what it is like to grow up black in the United States. Everyone seems to love this book, and I wanted to love it too. But while it was distressing and eye-opening, I had a fair amount of difficulty with Coates' writing style, which unfortunately detracted from my overall impression. The meandering, abstract thought, combined with no chapter breaks, was a challenge for this left-brained reader.
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.
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.