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Dept. of Books

Between the World and Me

I've wanted to recommend Between The World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, for some time; well before I reached the end of this very slim volume, as a matter of fact.

Folks may know of Coates' work at The Atlantic, with his trenchant, unyielding, and often strongly poetic writing about race and America, among many other things. He was named the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" grant.  (He's a fan, by the way; he's going to be writing The Black Panther for Marvel!)

But this book ... it's rare that I can say "A book changed my view of the world." This one did. It is written as a letter to his teenage son in the wake of the Trayvon Martin murder trial verdict. He speaks to his son as a black man, with a young black son he loves, in a country that doesn't love either of them. Within the first 10 pages of this letter, I was treated to more wisdom, and more hurt, and more righteous anger, than I've read in a long time. 

I'm a middle-class white woman, and reading this was sometimes brutal for me - but it was brutal in all the good "you need to learn this, to understand it, to accept it, " way. Coates is that rarest of combinations; a writer with reportorial skills in equal measure to his command of language, pacing, heart and mind. He made me listen. 

Between the World and Me has been short-listed for the National Book award. You should read it.

This entry was originally posted at http://kaffyr.dreamwidth.org/383531.html?mode=reply, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. You can comment there or here; I watch both.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
a_phoenixdragon
Oct. 22nd, 2015 04:19 am (UTC)
He is so OPEN as well. He totally gets that as whites, we do not understand - and tries to gently SHOW us without anger or prejudice at our blindness. After all, how can we be made to see, if we do not understand we are blind?

He is truly a marvelous, deep thinker and a strong, wonderful person. We should be proud to have such a man walking the earth with us now, when we may need him the most.

*HUGS*
kaffyr
Oct. 22nd, 2015 05:34 pm (UTC)
Yes: at the end of the book, he tells his son not to struggle for the Dreamers - his word for those of us at the top of the privilege heap, who avoid reality by thinking that The American Dream is for everyone, without realizing that The American Dream was based on slavery - only to struggle for himself. And then he tells his son that he can hope for the Dreamers and even pray for us; but that we have to learn to struggle against the Dream ourselves. And I take that to mean that we have to abandon many, many hurtful ideas that may have once been comforting to us, in order to build a Dream - or even better, a Reality - that encompasses us all. We can't become defensive when we are told that we are complicit in today's wrongs; we have to acknowledge that just by living with privilege, we are maintaining the broken system that believes in privilege.

Augh - I'm going on at length, because just reading his prose makes me think, and think, and think. And even as I want to joke, "I'm too old to think," I have to admit that no one can get out of the need to think just because they're old. Heh.
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