Review of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me

Review of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me

Less than an hour ago I finished reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me. As I read the last sentence,

“Through the windshield I saw the rain coming down in sheets,”

I was involuntarily overcome with inexplicable, yet wholly warranted, emotion. Oddly tears, my tears, tears perhaps I had been locking inside my fatherly bravado for a couple decades, came down in their own sheets as thoughts of my child, my daughter, at fourteen years old, still having to face the daemonic vulgarities of a world she had no part in building but would be expected to repair, came to life.

The tears came because Coates, in a few pages, captured, exposed, unlocked and translated what so many people of color, so many frustrated and frightened parents, and so many disenfranchised and nomadic youth found so difficult to dictate and explain. For them, the feelings were there, but the words simply would not come. I wept because Coates’ story was my story from my early experiences as a student at Morehouse (the Harvard of the South), to the wanderer and discoverer of beauty upon the Parisian landscape, to accepting my unexpected role as an English teacher in a tough and directionless Baltimore City, to my exploration and rebirth of who I am today.

Like so many, I was immediately taken to the oft quoted, extensively analyzed and eternally relevant essay, The Fire Next Time, written in 1962 by James Baldwin, as a “letter” to his nephew for all the nephews in the world to analyze and digest. The similarities were uncanny, and certainly intentional, written as if a continuation to Baldwin’s last line from “The Fire…”,

“And everywhere there is the anguish of being black in a society that at times seems poised on the brink of total racial war.”

Yes, Coates released Between the World and Me, several weeks after the ‘unrest’ in Baltimore at the urging of his publisher, a timely and strategically perfect act and as an expose of tumultuous racial injustice and social chaos headlining the evening news the world over.  He writes: “But race is the child of racism, not the father.” Indeed. Perhaps.

This is a book that must be read and passed on to the youth to read several times over; a book for universities and secondary schools to add to their bulging curriculum to produce and encourage magnificent, meaningful dialogue without blame or bias. Between the World and Me, is a book that should be discussed over scones and tea and bags of potato chips, and shared during drives to grandma’s house in the country or train rides into the inner city. It should be read by all people regardless of color, creed, nationality or social belief. This is a book of substance and timeless relevance.  It is the book we all know. Eagerly and with highest expectation, I await the next Coates to continue the story between the world and us.


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