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Coates’s Between the World and Me


I had intended to follow my review of the tree book and an earlier review about a book on moss with a reading about birds, or perhaps write about how much I am enjoying Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Then Charlottesville happened and it seemed imperative to reflect more on human nature than outdoor nature.

I picked up Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me. This beautifully written letter from an African American to his son is, in the words of Toni Morrison, “required reading.”

What hubris on my part to think I could do justice in a brief review to such a powerful, impassioned and honest work. Coates reflects on his childhood on the streets in Baltimore, the schools that failed him, his intellectual coming of age at Howard University as well as the history of blacks in the United States. Coates lifts the curtain on the fears and dreams of a young black father in America, and in doing so reveals a past and present few Americans know or want to acknowledge. To read this letter is to begin to understand and appreciate growing up black in this country.

Coates’s book, which won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2015, is a personal, political and profound view of racism, and this month it could not be more timely or prescient.

For those of you who have already read Between the World and Me, you can celebrate that Coates is the author of the forthcoming book We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy (October 2017). I have no doubt it will be another critical addition to the conversation we must continue to have. I am ordering my copy now from a local independent bookstore-—please help support them.

~Anne Depue

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