books and reading

Between the World and Me

Title: Between the World and Me

Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Genre: Black and African-American biographies

PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt: a book on a Black Lives Matter reading list

Of course, I know who Mr. Coates is. I’ve read several of his essays, I’ve heard him speak on videos, and I’ve followed his career via the news. However, I’ve yet to read one of his books. He’s an author that I always meant to get to but just never did. But when I saw the BLM prompt, I knew just what to read. I already owned this book, and without even knowing what it was about, I dove in.

From Goodreads: In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?
Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward. 

This book is only 150 or so pages, which makes it really easy to digest. The message is clear: Black people do not own their own bodies. They are constantly fighting for their bodies and their places in the world. Coates discusses his own youth, illuminating his path of realization and discovery. The book is a letter to his son, which makes it even more powerful. He isn’t just speaking to the masses, but to one person he loves. This book really should be required reading. Having young Black people see themselves, their history, their struggles in print is critical. Enough with the dead white people books. Give kids the chance to read about themselves and their peers. The more educating we do, the more this generation will empathize.