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Between the World and Me Hardcover – July 14, 2015

4.6 out of 5 stars 2,279 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of July 2015: Readers of his work in The Atlantic and elsewhere know Ta-Nehisi Coates for his thoughtful and influential writing on race in America. Written as a series of letters to his teenaged son, his new memoir, Between the World and Me, walks us through the course of his life, from the tough neighborhoods of Baltimore in his youth, to Howard University—which Coates dubs “The Mecca” for its revelatory community of black students and teachers—to the broader Meccas of New York and Paris. Coates describes his observations and the evolution of his thinking on race, from Malcolm X to his conclusion that race itself is a fabrication, elemental to the concept of American (white) exceptionalism. Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, and South Carolina are not bumps on the road of progress and harmony, but the results of a systemized, ubiquitous threat to “black bodies” in the form of slavery, police brutality, and mass incarceration. Coates is direct and, as usual, uncommonly insightful and original. There are no wasted words. This is a powerful and exceptional book.--Jon Foro

From School Library Journal

In a series of essays, written as a letter to his son, Coates confronts the notion of race in America and how it has shaped American history, many times at the cost of black bodies and lives. Thoughtfully exploring personal and historical events, from his time at Howard University to the Civil War, the author poignantly asks and attempts to answer difficult questions that plague modern society. In this short memoir, the Atlantic writer explains that the tragic examples of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and those killed in South Carolina are the results of a systematically constructed and maintained assault to black people—a structure that includes slavery, mass incarceration, and police brutality as part of its foundation. From his passionate and deliberate breakdown of the concept of race itself to the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, Coates powerfully sums up the terrible history of the subjugation of black people in the United States. A timely work, this title will resonate with all teens—those who have experienced racism as well as those who have followed the recent news coverage on violence against people of color. Pair with Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely's All American Boys (S. & S., 2015) for a lively discussion on racism in America. VERDICT This stunning, National Book Award-winning memoir should be required reading for high school students and adults alike.—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; 1 edition (July 14, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812993543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812993547
  • Product Dimensions: 4.9 x 0.7 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,279 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Clifton on August 14, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Like many of the one- and two- star reviewers of this book, I bristled at certain passages in Between the World and Me. I felt attacked and blamed at times, because I, in Ta-Nehisi Coates' words, "believe that I am white." So I understand the scorn directed at this book by many who dismiss it as divisive and simplistic in its assessment of the black experience in America.

But here's the thing: this book isn't about me. It's not trying to tell me what I should do to be a better person or make me feel guilty about things I don't even understand, much less control. It's not trying to fix anything. And if you're reading it that way, I think you're missing a profound experience.

I've never been shown and made to understood the experience of a life so unlike my own as I have with this book. I felt the frustration and fear that Mr. Coates felt growing up black in America. I felt the anger he feels at people who believe that they are white dismissing that experience as so many sour grapes. I felt the hypocrisy of being told not to wear hoodies or play loud music for fear of someone breaking your body.

That's why this book matters. It's not a solution to our race problems or an accurate assessment of the progress of America as a nation. It is not a book about white people and how we should change. It is simply a powerful testament of one man's experience, and an offering of understanding.

I grew up rich, white and privileged in suburban Virginia. I never had to think about my safety, my future or my pride through the lens of my race. I couldn't even begin to conceive of that experience. Ta-Nehisi Coates is the first person to break through that reality of my upbringing and allow me to step into another experience for a little while.

It was life-changing and important.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's hard to know what to say about a book about which so much has already been said. If you're familiar with Coates' writing from The Atlantic Magazine or elsewhere you already know that, in terms of style, he is a gifted writer who is always a pleasure to read, regardless of the subject matter he writes about.

The subject matter here, however, is what is most important about "Between the World and Me." Coates' uses the experience of young African Americans and his own experiences growing up to create a poetic and impassioned letter to his son and, indeed to the world, about what it means to be a person of color in the United States at the beginning of the 21st century. My personal belief is that the issue of race and institutionalized racism is the most important issue we as a country face right now. The events of the past two years have focused a bright light on issues that many of us were only dimly aware of. Or, more accurately, that we knew about but didn't want to face. For those who realize that they MUST be faced, no matter how painful we find them, Coates provides a remarkable first step with this compelling, poetic, and sometimes heartbreaking expressionistic book.

The inability to see what causes pain, even though it is right in front of us, is a very human defense mechanism. But it is a defense mechanism that does not serve any of us or our country well. Empathy and a desire to understand that which we haven't personally experienced but that we know are pernicious facts of modern Anerican life are key to the changes we must make. As an upper-middle class white woman, I've lived through very few of the events and feelings Coates describes in "Between the World and Me." Which is all the more reason for me to read it and recommend it.

This is undoubtedly one of the most important books of the last 50 years. If I could gift a copy to every single American, I would.
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Format: Hardcover
Between the World and Me, as many likely already know by now, takes the epistolary form—specifically, that of a series of letters from Ta-Nehisi Coates to his teenage son regarding what the elder Coates believes his son needs to know as a black, male, teenager who will hopefully make it to being a black, male, adult without being too sufficiently wounded emotionally, psychologically, socially, nor culturally, in the process.

I read this book through the many inner and outer understandings and experiences of both myself and the world into which many generations of my ancestors lived; into which I was born, have lived, and continue to live. I read it through multiple and varied intelligences and perspectives. I read it through the eyes and heart of the fifty-five year old black man that I am—a man who can deeply identify with the voices of pain, angst, and grief through which Ta-Nehisi Coates principally speaks with throughout the book. I read it through the eyes and heart of the spiritual teacher that I also am—a teacher who teaches the deep, and I believe fundamental and necessary importance of understanding ones experience of this world through taking calculated ownership over ones very life—always and relentlessly looking within to understand the deepest essences of ones existence through that said life. I read it through the eyes and heart of being both a contemplative and a sacred activist who cogently understands injustice, greed, hatred, corruption, violence, sexual exploitation, and all manner of global depravity, and yet also as one who understands the often deeply mysterious powers of love, forgiveness, and redemption, etc.
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