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Between the World and Me Audio CD – Audiobook, September 8, 2015
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“Powerful and passionate . . . profoundly moving . . . a searing meditation on what it means to be black in America today.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Really powerful and emotional.”—John Legend, The Wall Street Journal
“Extraordinary . . . [Coates] writes an impassioned letter to his teenage son—a letter both loving and full of a parent’s dread—counseling him on the history of American violence against the black body, the young African-American’s extreme vulnerability to wrongful arrest, police violence, and disproportionate incarceration.”—David Remnick, The New Yorker
“Brilliant . . . a riveting meditation on the state of race in America . . . [Coates] is firing on all cylinders, and it is something to behold: a mature writer entirely consumed by a momentous subject and working at the extreme of his considerable powers at the very moment national events most conform to his vision.”—The Washington Post
“An eloquent blend of history, reportage, and memoir written in the tradition of James Baldwin with echoes of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man . . . It is less a typical memoir of a particular time and place than an autobiography of the black body in America. . . . Coates writes with tenderness, especially of his wife, child, and extended family, and with frankness. . . . Coates’s success, in this book and elsewhere, is due to his lucidity and innate dignity, his respect for himself and for others. He refuses to preach or talk down to white readers or to plead for acceptance: He never wonders why we just can’t all get along. He knows government policies make getting along near impossible.”—The Boston Globe
“For someone who proudly calls himself an atheist, Coates gives us a whole lot of ‘Can I get an amen?’ in this slim and essential volume of familial joy and rigorous struggle. . . . [He] has become the most sought-after public intellectual on the issue of race in America, with good reason. Between the World and Me . . . is at once a magnification and a distillation of our existence as black people in a country we were not meant to survive. It is a straight tribute to our strength, endurance and grace. . . . [Coates] speaks resolutely and vividly to all of black America.”—Los Angeles Times
“A crucial book during this moment of generational awakening.”—The New Yorker
“A work that’s both titanic and timely, Between the World and Me is the latest essential reading in America’s social canon.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Coates delivers a beautiful lyrical call for consciousness in the face of racial discrimination in America. . . . Between the World and Me is in the same mode of The Fire Next Time; it is a book designed to wake you up. . . . An exhortation against blindness.”—The Guardian
“Coates has crafted a deeply moving and poignant letter to his own son. . . . [His] book is a compelling mix of history, analysis and memoir. Between the World and Me is a much-needed artifact to document the times we are living in [from] one of the leading public intellectuals of our generation. . . . The experience of having a sage elder speak directly to you in such lyrical, gorgeous prose—language bursting with the revelatory thought and love of black life—is a beautiful thing.”—The Root
“Rife with love, sadness, anger and struggle, Between the World and Me charts a path through the American gauntlet for both the black child who will inevitably walk the world alone and for the black parent who must let that child walk away.”—Newsday
“Poignant, revelatory and exceedingly wise, Between the World and Me is an essential clarion call to our collective conscience. We ignore it at our own peril.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Masterfully written . . . powerful storytelling.”—New York Post
“One of the most riveting and heartfelt books to appear in some time . . . The book achieves a level of clarity and eloquence reminiscent of Ralph Ellison’s classic Invisible Man. . . . The perspective [Coates] brings to American life is one that no responsible citizen or serious scholar can safely ignore.”—Foreign Affairs
“Urgent, lyrical, and devastating in its precision, Coates has penned a new classic of our time.”—Vogue
“A work of rare beauty and revelatory honesty . . . Between the World and Me is a love letter written in a moral emergency, one that Coates exposes with the precision of an autopsy and the force of an exorcism. . . . Coates is frequently lauded as one of America’s most important writers on the subject of race today, but this in fact undersells him: Coates is one of America’s most important writers on the subject of America today. . . . [He’s] a polymath whose breadth of knowledge on matters ranging from literature to pop culture to French philosophy to the Civil War bleeds through every page of his book, distilled into profound moments of discovery, immensely erudite but never showy.”—Slate
“The most important book I’ve read in years . . . an illuminating, edifying, educational, inspiring experience.”—Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center
“It’s an indescribably enlightening, enraging, important document about being black in America today. Coates is perhaps the best we have, and this book is perhaps the best he’s ever been.”—Deadspin
“Vital reading at this moment in America.”—U.S. News & World Report
“[Coates] has crafted a highly provocative, thoughtfully presented, and beautifully written narrative. . . . Much of what Coates writes may be difficult for a majority of Americans to process, but that’s the incisive wisdom of it. Read it, think about it, take a deep breath and read it again. The spirit of James Baldwin lives within its pages.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“Part memoir, part diary, and wholly necessary, it is precisely the document this country needs right now.”—New Republic
“A moving testament to what it means to be black and an American in our troubled age . . . Between the World and Me feels of-the-moment, but like James Baldwin’s celebrated 1963 treatise The Fire Next Time, it stands to become a classic on the subject of race in America.”—The Seattle Times
“Riveting . . . Coates delivers a fiery soliloquy dissecting the tradition of the erasure of African-Americans beginning with the deeply personal.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[Between the World and Me] is not a Pollyanna, coming-of-age memoir about how idyllic life was growing up in America. It is raw. It is searing. . . . [It’s] a book that should be read and shared by everyone, as it is a story that painfully and honestly explores the age-old question of what it means to grow up black and male in America.”—The Baltimore Sun
“A searing indictment of America’s legacy of violence, institutional and otherwise, against blacks.”—Chicago Tribune
“I know that this book is addressed to the author’s son, and by obvious analogy to all boys and young men of color as they pass, inexorably, into harm’s way. I hope that I will be forgiven, then, for feeling that Ta-Nehisi Coates was speaking to me, too, one father to another, teaching me that real courage is the courage to be vulnerable, to admit having fallen short of the mark, to stay open-hearted and curious in the face of hate and lies, to remain skeptical when there is so much comfort in easy belief, to acknowledge the limits of our power to protect our children from harm and, hardest of all, to see how the burden of our need to protect becomes a burden on them, one that we must, sooner or later, have the wisdom and the awful courage to surrender.”—Michael Chabon
“Ta-Nehisi Coates is the James Baldwin of our era, and this is his cri de coeur. A brilliant thinker at the top of his powers, he has distilled four hundred years of history and his own anguish and wisdom into a prayer for his beloved son and an invocation to the conscience of his country. Between the World and Me is an instant classic and a gift to us all.”—Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns
About the Author
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Coates uses his youth, his journey into manhood, his personal tragedies and his struggle to find his voice as a writer as a vehicle to reflect on what it means to be a black male in America. The book is crafted as a letter to his son, making it a more intimate and personal journey. That intimacy and humanization extends beyond Coates to the victims and survivors of racism. Coates forces to you reflect on the individuality, potential and preciousness of every life impacted by the Middle Passage, Bloody Sunday or killer cops.
He is not optimistic, but he's not a cynic, either. I was worried that this book would leave me feeling sad, angry, hurt. Instead, I feel strangely proud. He sees where we fail as a nation, but points out how black people have and will continue to survive as a people. And he calls on those who have benefited from America's systemic racism to do better or face their own future downfall.
To sum it up, Toni Morrison describes this book best: "This is required reading."
Top international reviews
Ta-Nehisi Coates does an excellent job of explaining what it is to grow up in America without that privilege. In clear prose he tells the story of his life. He clearly lays out how living in America as a black man means living under the threat of having your body broken.
Part of what makes this book so compelling is that Coates is writing to his son. Imagining having to have a similar conversation with my son is heartbreaking. I've read again and again about these conversations, but Coates manages to make it real in a way that I haven't experienced before.
Coates talks time and again about using writing as a way of interrogating himself and the world around him, of asking questions and exploring possible answers. What shows through more than anything in this book is a relentless search for the answers.
As a result, this book is more open than many essays. Coates shies away from the easy Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis model. Instead the book is a series of questions. These questions lead to books, conversations, events. These provide some answers, but also open the door to yet more questions.
There are no definitive conclusions here, which is fitting for a book that is written from a father to his son. The book is an invitation to keep searching for the answers, to keep working to find a way to a world in which no one has to live in fear of their body being stolen, broken and destroyed.
The book gives us Coates’ honest thoughts on many important issues – on race, racism, poverty, deprivation, privilege and its abuse, police brutality. He documents his own personal experiences. He tells us of the experience of his friends and family. We see detail and pain and suffering.
Above all, Coates is a student of life (he was taught to inspect reality and find his own truths by his mother). He is an observer and someone who wishes to plunge the depths. He has insights. He has worked hard to understand how he feels as a black man in a black skin.
He wishes that more progress had been made so that the advice he could give to his son would be more positive - that the issues he struggled with growing up would be less present today. That is not the case. There is little light on the horizon, not none at all, just very little. There has been very little progress since the days of slavery.
Coates explains the pervasive fear he has always experienced for his own body – that at any moment his life could be taken on the streets. When his son was born he felt the same terror for his own child.
He discovered the beauty of black heritage, so absent in the media and schools. This was a discovery he made at Howard University, where the diverse black fraternity was alive with debate and dynamism and talent.
He became a reporter and said, “…the softness that once made me a target now compelled people to trust me with their stories…”. I liked that line a lot.
He tells us “…for 250 years black people were born into chains…”
“…transfigured our very bodies into sugar, tobacco, cotton, and gold” – the founding wealth of America
“…the truth is that the police reflect America in all of its will and fear….”
I resonated with much of what Coates had to say. It’s a timely piece, sobering and brutally honest.
Coates himself says that he has struggled with expressing love and softness to his son (my words) because he has been too terrorized by his own inability to secure the safety of his son on the streets, such that, every moment of life, he is fearful of loss and tragedy. This was the powerful lesson I took away from this book. The flip side, in terms of the writing, is that I had expected more warmth and a more personal nature to the letters. As I was reading, I rather felt that the author was speaking directly to the reader. This was not negative, in fact it was powerful, but it was not the expectation raised by the book blurb.
In terms of presentation, I have to say that I think the publisher would have been better to split the three letters into smaller sections, to give the reader time to breathe. Do not let this put you off!
As I said, a timely piece, sobering and brutally honest
I have admired Coates writing since reading him in the Atlantic. He writes with beauty, poetically getting to the heart of matters with originality and insight. He does not unearth facts but makes his telling points with anecdotes and observations. This makes it more, rather than less, effective. He does not argue with the reader but confronts him with an unarguable emotional case that rings true.
And Coates is mad, and justifiably so. He rubs our noses in racism and holds our heads down until we can't stand it. I doubt that anyone who reads this book will ever feel the same about race, and for this we have the brilliant Coates to thank.
A worthy winner of the National Book Award
As you may know, this book speaks about race in America, starting from the days of slavery till now, to provide us with this viewpoint that makes the reader understand ‘what it is like to inhabit a black body.’
It's almost like a personal diary from Coates to his son explaining how it is we have come to the state we are in, and to offer consolation to his son through it.
This is such a beautifully written book. I love that the author was able to write with such clarity that enabled the reader to really be put in a black person's shoes. To understand their culture and to comprehend that the root cause of it all is fear that is driving these people forward as it is their only means of survival. Terrifying fear where your guard is up 24/8 because you know that as soon as you step out into that world you have a target, set and ready, on your back, which translates to a harshness and power within an individual that is at its essence, fear. And Coates lets the reader (and his son) view this fear through his eyes, his upbringing and experiences and understanding of the world.
I was just on the constant verge of tears, whether it was out of anger or sadness, because what else are you meant to feel when you know that a specific group of people are completely broken down due to the colour of their skin? Yet, he speaks on understanding the 'white’ mentality. This book is full of empathy, it seeps out of every word, every sentence that is constructed
He speaks on identity, the social construct of races, the all American Dream that is a facade and build on the back of slavery, police brutality and the concept of whiteness.
It's not all doom and gloom. There is hope, there has to be and he shares beautiful moments in his life where barriers within himself are broken and clarity poured in, that the world is much more than America and its toxic narrative/lifestyle and the simple wonders of life that we take for granted.
I know that this is a book that I'll casually flick through every now again. I've filled it with my thoughts, which I'll probably have to add to as my perspective of this world changes and my own understanding grows. It was truly an an eye-opening read. I feel invigorated and my mind is more curious, hungry and eager to find out more.
For anyone with the courage to take the red pill and wake from their ignorance.
A must read for all those interested in current events regarding race politics and the history of races and of both 'blackess' and 'whiteness'. this is an incredible book by Ta-Nehisi Coates which is an incredible book written to his children regarding the reality of race as seen by Coates.
the book delves into the reality of differing situations from police brutality and how Coates grew up.
the book really is an incredible read.