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The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood Paperback – January 6, 2009


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Best Books of the Year
Best Books of 2014
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2014's Best Books of the Year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; Reprint edition (January 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385527462
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385527460
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Coates grew up in a tough Baltimore neighborhood, subject to the same temptations as other young black boys. But he had a father in the household, a man steeped in race consciousness and willing to go to any lengths—including beatings—to keep his sons on the right path. With sharp cultural observations and emotional depth, Coates recalls an adolescence of surreptitiously standing on corners eying girls, drinking fifths, and earning reps, mindful of his father’s admonition about the Knowledge. Central to the Knowledge was the need to confront fears and bullies and beat them in order to live in peace. For a while, his own style was to “talk and duck”; later he found places to be himself in African drumming and writing. The Knowledge focused on alternative paths for race-conscious black men, respectful of the broader culture, but always a bit on the margins. His father had balanced his own life between square jobs and a black book publishing enterprise. As Coates grew up, he replaced his comic books with his father’s collection of classic literature on the race struggle and found his own way. A beautifully written, loving portrait of a strong father bringing his sons to manhood. --Vanessa Bush --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Ta-Nehisi Coates is the young James Joyce of the hip-hop generation.”
—Walter Mosley


“Haunting and healing . . . a splendid memoir” —Essence

“A brilliant coming-of-age story.” —People

“A remarkable, blunt portrait of an adolescence filled with danger, chaos, flaws, and tragedy . . . a love story, dispatched from the front lines of a family.”
Time Out New York

“A searing and soulful memoir.”
—Michael Eric Dyson, author of April 4, 1968

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Customer Reviews

The prose is exquisite, infused with a beautiful poetry and lyricism.
name
It is an awful thing, really, when someone reaches across the pages of a book and touches you, when he says "Hear me," when you open your eyes and say "I see you."
Stephen Matlock
We are reading this book for a book club, and one friend said she needed a dictionary to survive it.
Darrell Cozen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Stacia L. Brown on June 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I've never read a memoir quite like this one. Ta-Nehisi talks about his parents' patented "look of Not Playing" and calls the bullies from rival neighborhoods "orcs," immediately evoking faceless, hooded menaces, as chilling on the page as they likely were as he tried to outrun them, growing up. He calls Howard University "Mecca." Street smarts are The Knowledge. Tribal rites of passage you usually only read about in books on African History or see on documentaries take place on the streets DC and Northern Virginia.

The Beautiful Struggle is like an urban Pilgrim's Progress, a hip-hop infused allegory about how to survive Baltimorean boyhood, about how to overcome academic mediocrity, about how to stop acting as your own eclipse and finding some way--any way--to shine.

It feels nonlinear and random at turns, but even at its most tangential, it holds your attention and nearly every page contains a sentence so lush or confessional you can't help but envy its construction.

Dude's the real deal. Read it.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Priscilla C. Johnson (Cilla) on June 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ta-Nehisi Coates introduces readers to a new and intriguing coming-of-age story, The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons and An Unlikely Road to Manhood that takes place in Baltimore during the height of the Hip-Hop and Drug era. Paul Coates was a Vietnam Veteran who returned to the chaotic streets of Baltimore and became a leader in the city's Black Panther Party. Armed with determination, Paul Coates was a disciplinarian that strived for success and knowledge. Ta-Nehisi discusses his father's emphasis on knowledge and understanding your history in order to succeed. Ta-Nehisi admits to struggling in school as he attempted to find his way; yet he maintained the teachings of his father. He also discusses the path chosen by an older brother that teetered on self-destruction and then recovery.

Paul Coates' story is very refreshing. It is not the story of a former Black Panther but of a father's determination to raise his sons. Armed with knowledge, consciousness, common sense and self-worth, Ta-Nehisi Coates tells of his failures and triumphs into man-hood that were guided by his father and aided by his mother and teachers. Though his father was strict, you could feel the love in all of his actions. Ta-Nehisi Coates' writing style is simplistic and engaging. Each page encourages you to continue to the next. Everyone that reads it will appreciate this story but it is especially recommended for young men and those raising young men.

Reviewed by: Priscilla C. Johnson
APOOO BookClub
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Dawn Ashwood on June 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
You know, as one escalates in age, but in particularly, in maturity with a little dose of wisdom and a touch of discernment, you begin to look at your parents as multi dimensional people. You realize, no they were not put on this earth to make your life miserable and without even consciously realizing it, the life lessons they taught you, the pitfalls they tried to keep you from falling into, become your reality. Ta-Nehisi Coates has penned a memoir for the hip hop( the ORIGINAL hip hop) generation. What I appreciated about Mr. Coates recollection of his childhood and coming of age tale was the fact that he didn't try to explain, defend or deny his father. He simply opened the door to the portals of ones mind, so that we can see the trials and triumphs of an american family. I appreciate Mr. Coates forth rightness about his father's inability to me faithful to any one woman, and how that may or may not have affected him. One of the most humorous passages of the book is when the elder Coates has enlisted Ta-Nehisi to go through the labyrinth of books and pamphlets in the garage and he proceeds to write line by line what Ta-Nehisi did or didn't do even down to Ta-Nehisi playing with his younger brother! That was classic! A heart wrenching passage is when the younger Mr. Coates shares with the reader his fathers utter disappointment and advising him of how he has shamed the Coates name. I will never forget, Ta-Nehisi advising the reader that no matter what you have heard about black men/boys, they do not want to fail or be deemed as a failure. This to me is one of the best memoirs for our generation and generations to come. I look forward to hearing more from this man.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By JEB on August 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
Read the book. Then read the author's blog. Then start begging him to write another book. The progression is inevitable.

That's really all there is to say.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Misty D. Walker on February 5, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I made myself finish this book. The author uses 1990's Baltimore slang like a second language; a language I don't understand. This was frustrating. About a third of the way through the book I was too exhausted from trying to translate the passages to care about any of the people in the book. Some of the passages are beautiful when read aloud; I just don't know what they mean. The author has a good story but it's as if it he wrote it in code making me feel like an outsider, one whom he did not intend to understand his book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Belfield on May 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a very good book. This young man is an awesome writer. As a person who loves books and good stories by African American authors, I was very pleased with this book and highly recommend it. The title is very appropriate.
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