This book has been one of the most talked about books of 2015, won the National Book Award and tops many of the best books of the year lists. I’ve put off reading it because I knew it was going to upset me, and it did. But it is, in my humble opinion, one of the most important books of my lifetime. That is a big statement – and it’s true. And it seemed an excellent way to start the new year.
The book is a collection of letters that Coates writes to his 15-year-old son about racism in America. I grew up at the tail end of the 1960’s and into the 70’s with forced busing, free love, and what I sincerely hoped was (and marched for) a significant shift away from the conservative, narrow minded views of middle class America to a brighter, more inclusive future. For a while there, it seemed to be going that way but the past few years America has fallen back – or, maybe, as Coates explains it, it never really went away. Coates insists that racism in America is a permanent fixture, and he is not trying to make it go away, but rather teach his son how to live with it.
American history is explored and explained in a way that is truly eye opening. But it is the use of the body, specifically black bodies, that Coates expounds on that is both terrifying and tremulous, and hopefully continues to provoke much needed conversations.
I highly recommend this book to everyone. The language is lyrical and powerful, the subject matter moving and emotional and important, and the themes all encompassing and worthy of deep discussion.
Buy this book.
For further reading, The Atlantic (where Coates is a regular contributor) has an online book discussion that may be perused. It has ended, but the comments are worth reading.
1/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™
BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Spiegel & Grau; 1 edition (July 14, 2015). ISBN 978-0812993547. 176p.