Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me

Book - 2015 | First edition
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"In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of (3z(Brace,(3y (Ba falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?"
Publisher: New York :, Spiegel & Grau,, [2015]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780812993547
9780679645986
Branch Call Number: 305.8 COA 2015
Characteristics: 152 pages : illustrations ; 20 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

List - Good Reads about Inequality
NWPL Nov 03, 2014

Written as a letter to Coates's fifteen-year-old-son, this book channels James Baldwin and Malcolm X to forcefully convey the oppression that has accompanied the American Dream.


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ryankegley
Mar 15, 2020

For anyone paying attention (which is to say, me — and Megan, who so patiently listens to each of these reviews once written), each year, over the past few anyway, I choose a theme around which to pick my books. Some years are more obvious than others, but after “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” slave narratives by Frederick Douglass and Solomon Northup, and now Ta-Nehisi Coates “Between the World and Me,” I’d say this year’s focus has made itself pretty clear.

I’d gone to the library expecting to pick up a copy of W.E.B. Du Bois’ “The Souls of Black Folk” but it hadn’t yet arrived from the transferring branch. I pulled up my reading list to see what my local branch might have on hand and was overcome with an inexplicable and unexpected giddiness when I pulled the book from the shelf. It’s not that I wasn’t excited about picking up the Du Bois. I most certainly was. But brief though the hunt might have been, it felt like I’d been looking for treasure and was surprised that I’d found some. Anyway, with either Du Bois or Coates, I was ready to move on to a different facet of the black experience.

If you don’t know by now, these days (or should I say these decades?) I am rarely at the vanguard of anything. I get around to books, movies, television shows, etc. in my own time — and rarely while they are still in vogue. And so it is with Coates’ 2015 “Between the World and Me,” that, if you hadn’t heard, was winner of the National Book Award, #1 New York Times Best Seller, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, and made pretty much any Top-Ten list you can imagine. It’s only natural then that I’d wait until everyone who was likely to read it had already done so, including a good number of my Goodreads friends.

It occurs to me that at this point in my review, as I drag on and on with a lengthy and largely unnecessary preamble, that I am at a loss for words to describe the impact and import of this book. While I hesitate to say this book was not written for me as its audience, which is to say it was not written for white people as its audience, or, as Coates would put it, “people who think they are white,” this is, as Toni Morrison states firmly on the cover, “required reading.” In the parlance of our times, I like to think I am fairly “woke.” Intelligent and reasonably well-read, yes, but I am a middle-aged, middle-class “white” man working in the largely “white” field of advertising who has little contact with others who don’t look like me. I may believe that this is not by design, and though I personally may not be driven by nefarious intent, it neither reflects nor changes the reality of the world I inhabit.

Written as a letter to his 15-year-old son, Coates, in an incredibly vulnerable way, opens the door — blows it off the hinges really — to what the world, past, present, and future, looks like from the lens of someone who is black. Intellectually I’ve understood what this means, but I did not and cannot know. My understanding came with what amounts to little more than unwanted, perhaps even condescending, sympathy. Coates isn’t looking for sympathy. He’s looking for truth, for knowledge, for a way for himself and his son and those who are black — and for all of us, really — to find a way to inhabit and navigate a world fraught with racial division, violence, exploitation, and the struggle for power. Through this deeply intimate work, we can, each of us, choose to look without blinking, to see the world as it is and not as we imagine it to be, and, if nothing else, begin to see people and worlds and lives that are not our own with more empathy and less sympathy. As Coates so eloquently put it, “race is the child of racism, not the father.” What a changed world we would have if we could remake it in this way, but to find a path forward we first have to see, truly see, each other. “Between the World and Me” is a powerful way to start.

g
Ghettostone
Jan 31, 2020

Ghettostone Publications Company's Editor/Chief Michael R. Brown and
The BEST SELLERS BOOK CLUB's review of author Ta-Nehisi Coates "Between
The World And Me" . This book was insightful, thought provoking and deeply
honest self examination of the African American experience as described by the
writer. These heartfelt descriptions told as parables in letters from the author to
his new born son. The parables are warnings about the "particular institutions" of
American Life and the dangers of just being Black or Brown has attached to it.
The author painstakingly details American Culture that includes "white supremacy"
ideology which has influenced genocide, land grabs, enslavement of Africans and
what the author calls "pillaging" of humans beings. The book uses historical accounts,
news reports, government stats to make a hard arguments that are inescapable and undeniable. The writing style weaves conversation with literary references, historical records and News reports are upper level and not meant for a easy read. I appreciate
the quality of writing. The intellectual narrative. The hard facts that cause difficulty
for non-political folks who might not be used to the "real" truth about America's
treatment of it citizens based solely of "color". It's uplifting recounts of history and
progress of Civil Rights Movements is worthy of note, but the continuation of
ignorance combined with blatant hatred and abuse from law enforcement make
the reader shutter with grief as to "Why" the hate of a minority group that has
contributed to American for over 350 years even before many of those who practice hatred even arrived on American shores...... WHY? Highly recommended for folks who wish to be "woke" and those who need to review their personal impact on daily life and whether your helping to solve racial problems of today or you are part of the status quo.

BEST SELLERS BOOK CLUB and Ghettostone Publications Editor/Chief Michael R. Brown highly recommend this book for all of our life long learners and book lovers who grow with the times....!

OPL_AnnaW Dec 20, 2019

A letter filled with experience, hope, and advice from a black man to his young son, this book will change your view of how you navigate the world.

o
OP_2
Aug 26, 2019

Tea & Talk Book Club / June 2017

IndyPL_SteveB Jul 17, 2019

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.

CarleeMcDot May 06, 2019

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.

JCLChrisK Apr 26, 2019

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.

r
ryner
Apr 08, 2019

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.

k
Karen_Lewis
Mar 07, 2019

must read

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nitsirklea
Jan 30, 2020

“I wanted to pursue things, to know things, but I could not match the means of knowing that came naturally to me with the expectations of professors. The pursuit of knowing was freedom to me, the right to declare your own curiosities and follow them through all manner of books. I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people's interests. The library was open, unending, free.”

a
abbi_g
Dec 27, 2018

For their innocence, they nullify your anger, your fear, until you are coming and going, and you find yourself inveighing against yourself -- 'Black people are the only people who ...' -- really inveighing against your own humanity and raging against the crime in your ghetto, because you are powerless before the great crime of history that brought the ghettos to be.

t
taylorwoods
Feb 17, 2017

“But race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming “the people” has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy. Difference in hue and hair is old. But the belief in the preeminence of hue and hair, the notion that these factors can correctly organize a society and that they signify deeper attributes, which are indelible—this is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white.”

m
mucho_libro
Jan 14, 2017

I grew up in a house drawn between love and fear. There was no room for softness. But this girl with the long dreads revealed something else -- that love could be soft and understanding; that, soft or hard, love was an act of heroism.

b
blessedOne
Aug 26, 2016

"Never forget that we were enslaved in this country longer than we have been free. Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains - whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains."

s
starsabove
Jun 08, 2016

(This book opens with a quote from Richard Wright that contains the title of the book):

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.

bickjd Apr 04, 2016

"Once, the Dream’s parameters were caged by technology and by the limits of horsepower and wind. But the Dreamers have improved themselves, and the damming of seas for voltage, the extraction of coal, the transmuting of oil into food, have enabled an expansion in plunder with no known precedent. And this revolution has freed the Dreamers to plunder not just the bodies of humans but the body of the Earth itself. The Earth is not our creation. It has no respect for us. It has no use for us. And its vengeance is not the fire in the cities but the fire in the sky. Something more fierce is riding on the whirlwind. Something more awful than all our African ancestors is rising with the seas…across the sprawl, is the automobile, the noose around the neck of the earth, and ultimately, the Dreamers themselves.” (150)

bickjd Apr 04, 2016

“…predictions of national doom. I had head such predictions all my life… [I knew] that this was all too pat, knowing that should the Dreamers reap what they had sown, we would reap it right with them. Plunder has matured into habit and addiction; the people who could author the mechanized death of our ghettos, the mass rape of private prisons, then engineer their own forgetting, must inevitably plunder much more. This is not belief in prophecy but in the seductiveness of cheap gasoline."

h
heidikay1
Dec 08, 2015

That was the week you learned that the killers of Michael Brown would go free… and I heard you crying. I came in five minutes after, and I didn’t hug you, and I didn’t comfort you, because I thought it would be wrong to comfort you. I did not tell you it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay. What I told you is what your grandparents tried to tell me: that this is your country, that this is your world, that this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.

s
shayshortt
Sep 17, 2015

“The pursuit of knowing was freedom to me, the right to declare your own curiosities and follow them through all manner of books. I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free.”

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shayshortt
Sep 17, 2015

Violence: Murders of African American men

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