Between the World and Me

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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • NAMED ONE OF TIME’S TEN BEST NONFICTION BOOKS OF THE DECADE • PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST • NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST • ONE OF OPRAH’S “BOOKS THAT HELP ME THROUGH” • NOW AN HBO ORIGINAL SPECIAL EVENT

Hailed by Toni Morrison as “required reading,” a bold and personal literary exploration of America’s racial history by “the most important essayist in a generation and a writer who changed the national political conversation about race” (Rolling Stone)

NAMED ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL BOOKS OF THE DECADE BY CNN • NAMED ONE OF PASTES BEST MEMOIRS OF THE DECADE • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • O: The Oprah Magazine • The Washington Post • People • Entertainment Weekly • Vogue • Los Angeles Times • San Francisco Chronicle • Chicago Tribune • New York • Newsday • Library Journal • Publishers Weekly

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.

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  1. Camp Runamok

    Coates wrote this as a letter to his son, and if you want to understand what white privilege and black fear (particularly if you have a black son) is really all about, then this is the book to read. He shows how completely ingrained this is in American culture, independent of race.Two lines in the book really jumped out at me. One is that race is the child of racism, not the father. So true, so simple, so profound, and so completely opposite of what our culture teaches us. We know now that genetically, skin color is no different than the size of one’s nose. It’s just an artificial tribal construct (my words).The second is a quote from Saul Bellow, who asked, who is the Tolstoy of the Zulus? Meant as a racist quip, the answer to this question comes from another writer, which is of course, that Tolstoy is the Tolstoy of the Zulus. Bellow has no more, or less, claim on Tolstoy that does a Pygmy bushman (my words).I’ve thought about the white/black perspective on race, and I have what I call the old white engineer’s theory. We engineers like numbers. Let’s say we all agree that in the 60’s race relations were 80% bad and 20% good. From a white perspective, we focus on what is good, but from a black perspective, we focus on what is bad. And let’s say that now in 2016 we see race relations as 60% bad and 40% good. From a white perspective, we see things going from 20% to 40% good, and think, wow, race relations are twice as good as they were when I was a child. It appears to us as amazing progress. But from a black perspective, we would see things as going from 80% bad to 60% bad, because it’s the negative aspects of racism that affect us. So now we’re looking at only a 25% improvement in the quality of one’s life, which seems far, far less impressive.While this book is written as a letter from Coates to his son, this is really less a book for African American males than it is a book for white American males. Like the book we read last year for our book group, The Warmth of Other Suns, this will change your perspective on race and American culture.

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  2. Patrick F

    I’ve put off writing this review for a while. I find, as a straight, white, middle-class dude, conversations about race feel thorny. As I walk along this journey toward racial justice, however, I’m learning to embrace my feelings of discomfort and to not hesitate to speak up. I won’t let my sweaty palms stop me from pecking out notes about what I’m learning. Stumbling through a conversation about race is one of the best ways to learn sensitivity and empathy. Additionally, I was encouraged by the vulnerability of the author to describe his own failings and his progress as he learned about the role that race plays in this country. Sometimes I think reckoning with the complexities of race is a uniquely white problem for which I do not have any good answers. I’m encouraged to know that people of color walk this path of dawning understanding, horror, and aching for change. This insight may be remedial. In fact, I’m sure most of mine are. But I take pride in these tiny ignorances dispelled and in these small steps toward justice and equality. I know that I too can walk this bumpy path forward keeping an open heart and an eye toward my own missteps.Beyond the author’s honesty in his growing racial understanding, the book is poignant, insightful, and beautifully written. I particularly appreciated the author’s emphasis of what is really at stake when we talk about racial injustice: black lives (or, as Coates puts it in relating to the African American’s ongoing fight to escape from the historical chains of slavery woven into our society, the “black body”). He places preservation of the black body as the highest priority. This is no political point. It’s about ending pointless death based on nothing other than skin color. There is no abstraction here. The black body is what is at stake because the black body is what is most grievously endangered by racism and social injustice. Coates writes, “All our phrasing–race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy–serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body” (10). Coates’ focus on the real-world realities rather than intentions drives home the pervasive presence of racial oppression built into our modern world.Another important point is the power of forgetting. Denial and forgetting are key in upholding unequal power structures. We can advocate for equal treatment while forgetting that our ancestors (and even our younger selves) have already rigged the system in our favor. It’s a point I consider especially trenchant as I watch protests slowly waning across the country. Will we remember George Floyd in a year? Will we remember the gut-punch of black bodies destroyed needlessly on the streets? Or will we allow it to fade with time? We must, if we’re serious about our commitment to equality, remember. Remember every galling episode of racial injustice you can, keep it at the forefront of your mind, let your memory guide your actions toward change. I’m fumbling and bumbling to try to articulate points that Coates draws beautifully and with deep empathy. He often writes in the second person as a letter to his son to prepare him for the world: “You cannot forget how much they took from us and how they transfigured our very bodies into sugar, tobacco, cotton, and gold” (71).Coates’ story helped me to realize how very different my upbringing was because of my whiteness and social class. He expresses thoughts that I never had to consider because of the insulated childhood I enjoyed. For example, he writes, “When our elders present school to us, they did not present it as a place of high learning but as a means of escape from death and penal warehousing” (26). Again, “My father beat me for letting another boy steal from me. Two years later, he beat me for threatening my ninth-grade teacher. Not being violent enough could cost me my body. Being too violent could cost me my body. We could not get out” (28). And, “All my life I’d heard people tell their black boys and black girls to ‘be twice as good,’ which is to say ‘accept half as much” (91).Coates weaves history, personal experience, and informed insight beautifully. His story is honest and visceral and convicting and horrifying and encouraging. This is an important book that ought to be read with an open heart willing to listen and believe.A

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  3. L. Brown

    I began reading the book moments after downloading it to my Kindle and then spent the rest of the afternoon and part of the night reading it because I could not put it down until I finished. On the last page I was left wanting more. It is a thought provoking page turner.As a boomer, I’ve often wondered what became of some of the children of the Black Panther party members. Did they grow up to be revolutionaries or develop a different mindset from their parents? Coates, the son of a former Black Panther, answers that question for me in his book which he writes in the form of a letter to his 15-year-old son. By highlighting his own upbringing, his personal experiences and the experiences of other black men Coates tries to teach his son how to navigate the streets, the city, the country where which he was born – basically, how to stay alive while playing the game of life.Coates references the lives of Prince Jones, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Eric Garner and some others who died pointlessly, tragically and unnecessarily too soon. He emphasizes the permanence of racial injustice in America and opines on the futility of “the Dream.” This book is a revelation and anyone with an open mind can appreciate it whether you agree with everything he says or not. I don’t agree with everything that he wrote, but he is coming from his perspective, not mine. The book is unique, provocative and captivating. I highly recommend it.

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  4. Blkmnrisn1

    Coates is a phenomenal writer. I’m blown away by the many parallels between his life and mine. An exceptional conversation that I can only hope my own son may one day appreciate.

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  5. Dennis C. Roberts

    This is an elegantly written book by an African American author who has gained wide recognition for his deep descriptions of the influence of race in America. I needed the personal approach Coates took, written in the form of a letter to his son, primarily because the white privilege that I enjoy makes it nearly impossible to have a deep and full understanding of what Coates describes.A question Coates repeatedly raised was “How can we escape the Dream that confines, limits, and imposes a certain lifestyle seemingly without option to fashion a life that is unique to ourselves?” Eventually Coates began to see argument and disagreement, and the ultimate discomfort they bring, as providing light to the shadowed path of personal fulfillment. Only by questioning could he pursue a unique and freeing way of being in the world. This questioning included rejecting a Dream of needing to be, talk and think as if he was white.Coates’ book is not easy reading. Some of the images and dynamics he describes are unfamiliar or disturbing. More importantly, embracing the impact of what racism has caused hurts, it hurts because we are all complicit in what people of color experience in America. With imperfect understanding, my empathy has improved, a path toward the changes that must eventually come if we are to live in a more just and compassionate world.

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  6. DDT

    Powerful writing that is both beautiful and disturbing. Coates details the many ways blacks in American have been discriminated against and the ongoing legacy of this history (more appropriately, “living history” since we have not magically left this all behind us as much as many – well meaning and otherwise, wish to). Coates explains with facts, details and anecdotes the obstacles blacks have faced in the US over hundreds of years, including the present. Originally a skeptic regarding reparations (and perhaps still one regarding a practical outcome), it feels like I would need to put my head 20 feet into sand to not support at least studying the justification for and potential ideas for reparations. The discrimination and damage are not just sad exceptions to our ideals, but have been imbedded in our culture. We have a lot of work to do.My only issue with Coates is his deep pessimism and seeming dismissal of any progress (he does acknowledge some progress but it is buried so deep in pessimism that it is difficult to identify such as progress). Even some anecdotes that could easily be explained by other than racism (or could be racism at work) can make the reader feel a little concerned about Coates ability to recognize his own bias. That said, even if not admirable, his pessimism is understandable given the history of his race in our country. We (U.S.) have not lived up to our ideals and continue to stumble. If we are to going to take more strides toward those ideals, we must both have clarity over our sins and their ongoing impact and optimism that we can (and have to some extend) make significant progress to address and overcome them.

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  7. Olivia Nelson

    Coates writes another vivid picture of what it’s like to be Black in America. However this picture is not a pretty or happy one, but it is real. It is perceptive, descriptive and painful but it is true. I this Coates should be required in all schools as he shows us what life is truly like for those who are black and he does not know what sugar coating is.

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  8. Paul R.

    I’m white, male, and have very little understanding or appreciation for black culture. My parents and siblings all watched Roots when I was about 8 years old. I encountered some black sailors when I was in the U.S. Navy – in fact, I had a roommate for six months or so that was a black male, but we maybe spoke a hundred words during that time. This book came recommended by a quasi-stranger, not for it’s content but for its structure: letters from a father to a son. I’d mentioned that I was interested in writing that sort of book, and this was a resulting recommendation. I read a few reviews before buying it. Not the sort of book I’d otherwise pick up. After ordering it, I heard the author on NPR – without knowing it was the author of the book, mind you – and I thought “wow, this guy is really interesting, provocative, well-spoken, intellectually sound, and speaks from a world that I can only see from afar.” So when the show host said his name, I knew I had to pick up the book and read it soon. I had that opportunity within days, on a flight to Atlanta, my first visit there in maybe fifteen years. I got through about 110 pages on the flight and it was perfect timing. Atlanta is a sea of black compared to most everywhere I’ve lived. Instantly, I could try and appreciate my surroundings in way that I’d never been able to before. Did I feel “white guilt”? Sure. I do. I’ve seen racism my whole life, especially toward black. This book, however, did much more than rekindle strong feelings of being a winner of Powerball proportions in the life lottery. It challenged me so fundamentally and starkly in a way that I have never been challenged, reading a book, in my life. At times I felt compelled to put the book down, that it was just conjuring up too much weight of history that I wanted to put back out of sight. But I kept going. Finishing it, I felt, like apparently many others do, that this should be required reading for every American. Even those outside of the USA will benefit from it, as it will certainly illuminate the tension and schizophrenia and contradictions and rewritten history of our country. I hope Mr. Coates continues writing until he draws his final breath.

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  9. John Carpenter

    To say that the message here is powerful is not enough; Coates has created a book that asks uncomfortable questions without answering some of them while simultaneously staking the inequalities in America to roots so deep that there may be no way to change many of those things that are wrong. This was not an easy read for me, but one that moved me significantly by its honesty and, in places, by its rawness.This book was not written for me either–at least not directly, but that doesn’t mean the letter from Coates to his son cannot teach me as well. I found the language almost poetic, and I liked in particular the way Coates associates respect, life, and the loss of life with our actual physical bodies–or to be more precise, his son’s physical body. This makes everything more real, more immediate. Issues of inequality and racism are not about ideals; they are about what happens to a person’s body. I also liked the way Coates talks about people “who think they are white,” and by doing so, strips whiteness of being a race and makes it instead a system of values that have been historically forced on people.As a memoir of growing up in Baltimore, attending college at Howard, moving to New York, visiting France, this story illuminates Coates’ own grappling of American history and race. And the beautiful way he writes the story gives us back a hard picture of what we live with now. I want to talk to people about this book. I want to think about it more. I don’t want to be finished with it.

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  10. Kindle Customer

    This book moved me like few authors can. I felt many emotions and drifted of into many thoughts both about how he knows how I grew up because its how he grew up. In the absence of Malcolm and Baldwin we have our generation truth teller in Coates. Must Read!

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  11. Jeffrey Latham

    I read the Memoirs of Malcolm X when a teenager and remember him commenting about the fact that white people smelled differently than black people. It was such a revelation because I had noticed that black people smelled differently than white people. Imagine such a trivial fact making such an impression on one whose upbringing had been surrounded by black people and, yet, he, Malcolm, was the only one who noticed. And, strangely enough, I have never noticed since. But there was a difference, however insignificant. Well, this book brings home much more significant differences based in the psyches’ innermost realities of the divide between black and white and, in order to grow beyond those differences, we all need to discover how we relate to them and resolve them in our human relations, as co-inhabitants of this sacred space we share.Coates, through this auto-biographical expose, speaks to the core of our beings. Repeatedly he talks of the Dream – the basic illusion of white people that they are, in fact, White! He spells out the fundamental fears of growing up and existing in that Dream world as a black boy and man, whose black skin made him, basically, expendable in the perpetuation of that Dream, and how those fears pervade his life and the strength that results from attuning oneself to the daily realities of ‘america.’ It is a horror story, on the one hand, but a story of tremendous hope in the superior resilience and achievement resulting from living a life immersed in unpredictable circumstances and challenges fostering a higher consciousness, similar to climbing mountains or braving severe dangers and deprivations.If the bottom line, as he suggests, is to awaken those Dreamers to the reality they perpetrate, this book is a giant step toward that goal, if only it could be read and taken to heart by everybody, regardless of race. It bears witness to being black in america in a most eye-opening and, yet, poetic way. If every student could read it, at some point in their education, I think they would find themselves yearning for release from the illusion that has become our social norm and joining the Struggle to embody the grace and humanity that will be the only route to survival of all mankind, no matter what color their skin.

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  12. Jason Flores

    Ta-nehisi Coates gives a rough picture of his childhood and adolescence and the Black experience in America. It shows how though times may change the struggles with policing, prejudice, and housing. Parenting isn’t easy but in the Black community it makes for unique and challenging conversations for people trying to shield their kids from a cold and at times unjust world. This book is a man’s advice and loving letter to his son on how maneuver throughout the world.

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  13. Amazon Reader

    Coates’ words are so richly written as he is a writer who can pack eons of meaning into each sentence. This book is a love letter to his son, painstakingly detailing the effects and injustices and intergenerational trauma of racism and systemic oppression. He tries to describe the world as he knows it and how it relates to him, his son, and how all people are part of a broken system that continues to rob life and liberty from communities and individuals. For any white people wondering what their part is in racism or how to learn more about it, this is a great place to start. It is for anyone who needs a voice to describe the pain and loneliness of feeling abandoned and betrayed by their country. It is for anyone who wants a better view of the world from a well-pondered perspective. I will treasure this book as a beautiful piece of writing as well as a testimony of what society hides and pretends doesn’t exist. This will be for my children to help them find words for what they experience in this country. It is for family who still don’t know what has gone on around them their whole lives. Coates is eloquent and his writing is evidence of his deep love for his son. This book is worth sitting down and enjoying with no distractions.

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  14. Mamazabakaka

    REQUIRED READING: BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME, but Ta-Nehisi Coates. I rarely read non-fiction, and so, if I recommend a book of non-fiction it is because it is profound and worth the time and expense. Recently, I saw the documentary, “White Like Me” and decided to examine more deeply my own thoughts on race. Like most people, I would have said, “I’m not a racist!” But what explains my wimpy sympathy to the murder and incarceration of so many more black young people than white? I suppose I am past the age of rage, really, but as I read this account of growing up black in America and of having a black child to care about, I put myself in his place and my children and grandchildren into his narrative and began to understand more deeply. When it was over, I wept for not having been more involved when I was young enough to put myself on the line. DO find the time to read this book. If you can’t afford a copy, find a library or a friend who will lend it to you. I don’t mean to imply that you are as ignorant as I was, perhaps still am, but I do mean to say that experiencing this lyrical, beautifully crafted conversation is a privilege and an ultimately uplifting experience that no one should miss. I am only sorry I bought the Kindle edition and not the hard copy, because I want to lend it to so many friends.

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  15. Gary Hoggatt

    You must read this book. Yes, you. Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me is, as Toni Morrison’s cover endorsement states, “required reading.” In a country where there’s a new Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, or Trayvon Martin – and countless others down the centuries before hashtags gave us #blacklivesmatter – with disturbing regularity, if you want to understand the despair, rage, helplessness, and frustrated hope that Ferguson or Baltimore represent, you must read this book. And then read it again.Written as a letter to his fifteen year old son, Coates forces the reader, in a mere 176 pages, to consider and re-consider everything they know about America. As one of Coates’ “Dreamers,” one of “those who call themselves white,” there was much here I had never faced before. I had considered myself well-read on American history, but Coates awoke me to the fact that I was woefully, laughably mistaken. There’s an entire country here – a country dragged here in chains and kept down by fear of pain and death for centuries for the enrichment of people who look like me, but still here, NOW, today – that I didn’t even realize I wasn’t truly aware of. Not really. Not in any way that really mattered. It’s easy to be a Dreamer. It’s easy to keep dreaming. Too easy.As a father myself, there are parts of Between the World and Me that I can completely understand. The pouring of hopes and dreams and treasure into your children, striving to give the world to them. But these parts only serve to bring into vivid contrast the parts I have the blind, unearned luck to not have experienced. When my children leave the house, for example, it never occurs to me that my precious children might be snuffed out by those sworn “to protect and to serve” for “resisting arrest” or “failure to comply.” But that emotional burden grinds parents like Coates down, tears them apart, drains them, even if they don’t articulate as well as he does.And Coates does indeed articulate his message well. Between the World and Me seems at times to venture into poetry. It’s the poetry of the hammer of truth, an alarm clock set to startle and awaken the Dreamers, a pulling back of the curtain and shining a light into places – in the world, in yourself – you didn’t know or didn’t want to know were there. There were countless times reading this book were I felt as if the sentence I just read had pried my eyes open, reached into me, shook loose a too-comfortable notion I didn’t even realize I had, shown me the world from an angle I had never thought to consider.Between the World and Me will be the most important book of the year. You – YOU – need to read it. Now. And then read it again. I know I will.

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  16. 5 Margins

    A properly engaged parent writes an unsettling close-up of what Toni Morrison recently laments–the injured child. It is as if she summonses Ta-Nehisi Coates to chronicle his efforts at examining and bearing the obstacles to his growth since childhood. Coates lucidly describes for his teenage son the biologic and psychic injury he suffers since a youth in Baltimore, Maryland. In adulthood, he meets those blows with courageous questioning, reflecting, and attending to options for healing.In print, the hobbled search for manhood, then parenthood by Coates predicts the baseline challenge for young blacks and their families. His elegant voice quiets his certain rage. His message style permits readers a sobering pause in order to see the nation-wide cankers scaring young black bodies. The sight pierces hoary denials and reaches an otherwise disinterested or lethargic public.Coates’ vivid details outlining black life and loss are comparable to the X-ray of an aggressive opportunistic pathogen that metastasizes on its black host. The spread of centuries old delusions–violence as a measure of power; plunder as a racially appropriate pursuit; wealth rather than wholeness as the goal of humankind; the hierarchical value of skin color as honored fact–ravishes the black body..The chronic desire to align worthiness with “people who believe they are white” or attain their fictionalized inherent greatness is likely causal to a rather constant effort by too many blacks to lessen the distance between them and the condition of whiteness. Perhaps, the physical and mental pain wrought by those who loathe skin-color difference is reduced in such longings.Regrettably, skin-color discomfort seems placated by affirming: “Race is a social construction.” Well, so is language… and reality. Skin-tone and hair-texture unease are due less to the construction of race than the value (also socially constructed) ascribed to it. Fears about potential advantage in physical differences among humans aim at creating inferior others; categorizing them, controlling them, exploiting them, destroying them.Each personal narrative in the U.S.–good and bad–owes a great deal to being racially defined. The term can be “race” or “shoelace.” Horrible consequences exist from the importance placed of the measuring. They take form in lost lives, bitter personalities, willful personalities, lies, thievery, over-compensation, unwarranted shame, gun love, hubris… Ranked physical values apparently uplift wounded identities.In Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child fiction, identity acts as a personal and group antagonist. In the Coates “letter,” racial identity is similarly the antagonist. More like the transcript of a face-to-face conversation or a taped recording, the experienced truth Coates pens alerts readers to the unrelenting brutality on black lives that blocks access to human potential; an access capable of bringing the best future for black people and by extension all people in the United States.

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  17. RNJ

    In some passages of this book, my impulse is to underline nearly every sentence I am reading; the text seems that important. Ta-Nehisi Coates has written a book that everyone, and I mean everyone, should read, regardless of who you are or where you live in the world. He, in the tradition of Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver, articulates what it is to be an African-American male in the twenty-first century, an image that illuminates the agony his ancestors have experienced for hundreds of years. Indeed, the entire text is an address Mr. Coates is making to his son, informing him where he has come from, what he must watch for now, and how he can prepare for a future reflecting the fact that sixty percent of black men who drop out of high school wind up in prison.Mr. Coates’s most important motif may be that of “fear.” He expresses in a multitude of ways the fear that African-Americans experience each day of their lives.“I heard the fear in the first music I ever knew, the music that pumped from boom boxes full of grand boast and bluster. The boys who stood out on Garrison and Liberty up on Park Heights loved this music because it told them, against all evidence and odds, that they were masters of their own lives, their own streets, and their own bodies. I saw it in the girls, in their loud laughter, in their gilded bamboo earrings that announced their names thrice over. And I saw it in their brutal language and hard gaze, how they would cut you with their eyes and destroy you with their words for the sin of playing too much” (15).But fear is nothing new to African-Americans. It is something that may be conducted through their DNA from one generation to the next: “The nakedness is the correct and intended result of policy, the predictable upshot of people forced for centuries to live under fear” (17). And such fear he experiences first hand, realizing that men have disappeared from his life, uncles and others.This compact book covers so much: Coates’s upbringing by parents who eschew religion, his education at Howard University, the loss of a great friend he makes there, Prince Jones, the afternoon-long conversation he has with Jones’s mother, a woman with a PhD, who lives in a gated community after having escaped poverty in Louisiana. Each sentence is a plea for his son to pay attention to what I am saying!And we must pay attention, as well. I say this as an old white man, who has witnessed several manifestations of black power, and this tome is, as Toni Morrison proclaims on the book’s dust jacket, “required reading.”

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  18. Clarinet Esq.

    This is an intensely personal narrative. An open letter from a black man to his black son. But as a white man, I know exactly why this would make white parents want to ban it from schools.Is it violence? No. There is more violence in books that are not regularly banned, like the Hobbit. Is it racism? No. There is more open racism in books like Black Boy and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. There is more racism in To Kill a Mockingbird. But the reality is that those books are fiction, or they are old. You can say, “How terrible the past was. We are better now.”Those books don’t remind us that the second class citizen still exits, or that justice is still thwarted. This author, however, unabashedly reminds us that individual good intentions make no difference when there is indifference in the world to the violence done to black people, that is still done, because it is inherent in the manner of our own systems. This author has no forgiveness; he is not Christian minister who will comfort the conscious of our society. He is an atheist, and a realist.So, do you fail to understand why black people in this country, in 2023, are aggrieved? Read it and understand. Or don’t. It is, after all, your right to prefer comfortable lies than the hard truth of personal experience.

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  19. John Allen Chalk

    I read Between the World and Me after reading The Water Dancer, never expecting an emotional impact at the level experienced by my read of The Water Dancer. As a person of a different shade, I thought I knew what black people faced and experienced in the U.S. How wrong and how uninformed I was! Do not waste your time serving on committees for better race relations. Do not waste your time attending conferences for better policing. Do not get trapped in being well-meaning coverage for politicians who will not and, in most cases, cannot envision and implement cultural change. Read Between the World and Me and learn the depth of the permanent, persistent harm inflicted on black people by the endemic racism that remains as virilent or more so than at the settlement of this country by “white” people. I dare you to stop and listen to the messages in this book!

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  20. Charyna Rdgz

    Had to buy it for one of my classes, but I loved it. The author does a great job in summer hung you in this book, words are almost like poetry. Teaches you from a fresh and very close to the heart perspective. Would recommend 100%

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  21. Stephen Matlock

    So this is a beautiful, phenomenal, hard-to-read, engrossing, painful, tender, honest, raw, careful book.It is a letter penned to the author’s son about what life is for Americans, when said Americans are Americans-on-probation, Americans who are not really Americans, Americans who are provisionally American because they are not white Americans.It bookends the death of Prince Jones, the author’s friend, killed by cops and serving as a symbol of all that is hoped for in black Americans and all that can be brought to nothing by the actions of the state which can act without question against black Americans with violence, robbery, and theft.Being black will not save you from this fate, but being black will bring you something of great value, and that is the world you see as it is and the people you meet as they are.Mr. Coates was raised in Baltimore in the tough “urban” environment (see his first book for more details about that), goes to Howard University for a while (called “Mecca” in the book), meets significant people, starts a family, marries, travels–and all the while he sees the world around him as it is to him, someone who, in America, is only reluctantly allowed to exist.He’s not going to pull punches and he’s not going to provoke despair. He is, however, not going to participate in lies and evasions and half-truths. He is going to talk about what he sees, every root and branch and tree, and he is going to describe what it means.This is a book to read carefully, words and sentences together, then set aside for a moment to think. Then more words and sentences, and more thinking.I do not know how books like this get created. They are a wonder to me because they are honest and raw, written not with the hope of popularity but with the conviction that they are true.

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  22. Theresa Camlin

    A beautiful letter to his son. As any good father would do, the author warns his son of the dangers in life. Especially the dangers to a young black man every time he ventures onto the streets of America.

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  23. Carolina

    🤓I come from a small southern town in Texas so much of his world was foreign to me but not for long with how he writes. I was in the military and that was my first taste of the world in all of its varied confusing perspectives which I’d never encountered before. I heard and had some similar experiences but nowhere near the extent he describes. As I’ve been reading Between The World And Me I’ve often had to pause bc I flash back to memories and conversations I’ve shared with others from my past that even at the time I was too naiive to grasp the weight of. I wish this book was required reading in school bc the perspective in it is an eye opening one on society rarely considered/contemplated until one is forced to face it. I know it personally took a hate crime on my father before I finally woke up and recognized many of the truths discussed in this book which are hard to face for sure. I suppose I always fell into the supposed white group/mindset until suddenly realizing I didnt. Before this book there were so many things I never considered or understood until hearing/reading it the way he put it. It has the potential to broaden horizens of the mind for other’s experiences! Since perception is reality or so ppl often say (especially in the military)…Maybe reading someone else’s would help more ppl see things a little differntly and they’d pause before jumping to conclusions. In short this book is great and I believe one everyone should read with the ability to change your world view forever in the best kind of way! 🤯

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  24. Sandra L. Etemad

    One of the best books I’ve read in ages. Coates can really write, and between impeccable style and his amazing combination of deep emotion with an analytical mind, you can’t get much better. I suspect the African-American reader will love it because it will resonate with their experiences; for the rest of us, it really describes the experience and I’d challenge anybody to read it and not come away knowing and understanding more than they did before. That is, if they’re open to it; we used it for a book group and one person who read it cover to cover kept spouting all the regular prejudice and “they need to do this” and “they need to do that” kind of talk. So if someone already has their prejudices so firmly in place that they are unwilling to be moved, I can’t say; but for the rest of us, for anybody with even a teensy bit of an open mind, this short and very readable volume will open it further. My only caveat/suggestion: It starts sort of slowly, and confusingly. The first sentence, even pages, just didn’t make any sense to me (he starts out by talking about his body: ” . . . the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body,” and that’s not at all how the person phrased their question, or at least I gathered so as I continued reading). Even 10 or 12 pages in, I still didn’t understand what he meant and I felt it was unnecessarily obtuse. But then it turns out that he spends the entire volume explaining what he means by that, and so by the end of the book I really understood. But I was extremely frustrated at first — I’m not overly naive, I read a lot of great literature, I do a lot of writing and analysis, and I didn’t know what on earth he was talking about! — but keep reading and you’ll find out. And then you’ll want to start again from the very beginning, with your new understanding, and read it all over again. Which isn’t difficult, because it’s really short book with more content per word than most books I’ve read in my lifetime.

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  25. Charity

    I am reading through my #amplifymelanatedvoices book list. Ta-Nehisi Coates was suggested as a worthwhile read.Wow, did I not know what I was sitting down to! This is a beautiful lyrical painful love letter to his son. Crafted by a deep education in the English written language Ta-Nehisi strips back the ‘dream’ to show the visceral incessant fear that is the birthright of the oppressed. The effect of never being safe, of constant self protection, of relentless uncertainty that even when you act ‘twice as good’ you are never safe. That a hoodie, a boom box, a hand moved, will end your life.And the dreamers believe they are white. And he is black. They don’t tell their kids to be ‘twice as good’, they say ‘take twice as much’. They are sure, certain and most of all, safe.Of this life I know nothing. I was raised a Master of the Universe. I was lifted, pushed, flung up the ladder. I stood on my ancestors who were already in rarefied air and thrust higher. My fears? My uncertainty? Not being exceptional. Not being perfect. Not shining brightly enough.Ta-Nehisi knows that us dreamers, who believe we are white, are vacuous gluttons who eat without satisfaction, who cling to the emotions of the oppressed as ‘real’ because we are voids of meaningless certainty.There are no answers provided. Yet the corkscrew that I’m slowly removing from my gut will leave a hole in my ever awaken dream. Wake up! We don’t need to play at acting white.And please do yourself a favor, read this book. (with tissues)

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  26. Patrick F

    I’ve put off writing this review for a while. I find, as a straight, white, middle-class dude, conversations about race feel thorny. As I walk along this journey toward racial justice, however, I’m learning to embrace my feelings of discomfort and to not hesitate to speak up. I won’t let my sweaty palms stop me from pecking out notes about what I’m learning. Stumbling through a conversation about race is one of the best ways to learn sensitivity and empathy. Additionally, I was encouraged by the vulnerability of the author to describe his own failings and his progress as he learned about the role that race plays in this country. Sometimes I think reckoning with the complexities of race is a uniquely white problem for which I do not have any good answers. I’m encouraged to know that people of color walk this path of dawning understanding, horror, and aching for change. This insight may be remedial. In fact, I’m sure most of mine are. But I take pride in these tiny ignorances dispelled and in these small steps toward justice and equality. I know that I too can walk this bumpy path forward keeping an open heart and an eye toward my own missteps.Beyond the author’s honesty in his growing racial understanding, the book is poignant, insightful, and beautifully written. I particularly appreciated the author’s emphasis of what is really at stake when we talk about racial injustice: black lives (or, as Coates puts it in relating to the African American’s ongoing fight to escape from the historical chains of slavery woven into our society, the “black body”). He places preservation of the black body as the highest priority. This is no political point. It’s about ending pointless death based on nothing other than skin color. There is no abstraction here. The black body is what is at stake because the black body is what is most grievously endangered by racism and social injustice. Coates writes, “All our phrasing–race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy–serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body” (10). Coates’ focus on the real-world realities rather than intentions drives home the pervasive presence of racial oppression built into our modern world.Another important point is the power of forgetting. Denial and forgetting are key in upholding unequal power structures. We can advocate for equal treatment while forgetting that our ancestors (and even our younger selves) have already rigged the system in our favor. It’s a point I consider especially trenchant as I watch protests slowly waning across the country. Will we remember George Floyd in a year? Will we remember the gut-punch of black bodies destroyed needlessly on the streets? Or will we allow it to fade with time? We must, if we’re serious about our commitment to equality, remember. Remember every galling episode of racial injustice you can, keep it at the forefront of your mind, let your memory guide your actions toward change. I’m fumbling and bumbling to try to articulate points that Coates draws beautifully and with deep empathy. He often writes in the second person as a letter to his son to prepare him for the world: “You cannot forget how much they took from us and how they transfigured our very bodies into sugar, tobacco, cotton, and gold” (71).Coates’ story helped me to realize how very different my upbringing was because of my whiteness and social class. He expresses thoughts that I never had to consider because of the insulated childhood I enjoyed. For example, he writes, “When our elders present school to us, they did not present it as a place of high learning but as a means of escape from death and penal warehousing” (26). Again, “My father beat me for letting another boy steal from me. Two years later, he beat me for threatening my ninth-grade teacher. Not being violent enough could cost me my body. Being too violent could cost me my body. We could not get out” (28). And, “All my life I’d heard people tell their black boys and black girls to ‘be twice as good,’ which is to say ‘accept half as much” (91).Coates weaves history, personal experience, and informed insight beautifully. His story is honest and visceral and convicting and horrifying and encouraging. This is an important book that ought to be read with an open heart willing to listen and believe.A

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  27. Robert Bain

    What has taken me so long to review this vital read? These times needed Ta-Nehisi Coates, just as times past needed James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and most significantly the original wake-up call, Richard Wright’s Native Son. Indeed, Coates has said to our sons (and daughters) that the Fire is yet this time and it is in fact an urgent read for this generation so little has been meaningful and measurable in the path to be walked by young men of color in our society.Forgive my here taking this opportunity to recommend above and further recommend reading Climbin’ Jacob’s Ladder: The Black Freedom Movement Writings of Jack O’Dell by Nikhil Pal Singh and Black Revolutionary: William Patterson and the Globalization of the African American Freedom Struggle by Gerald Horne. Both O’Dell and Patterson are very likely not familiar names and that alone should cause wonder as these are two of the most instrumental and influential Black men that some one(s) don’t want you to know — Jack O’Dell was the intellectual power behind the Civil Rights Movement; so much so that J. Edgar Hoover made his singular effort to remove him from the movement and Attorney William Patterson was a national and international voice in the 1930’s along with his representation of the Scottsboro Boys — however, both were Communists and necessarily had to be minimized and erased from the record.Thank you Ta-Nehisi for reminding us that the struggle continues and as reading both O’Dell and Patterson also indicate the goal is yet unfulfilled.

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  28. taydigga

    I see why those who’ve read this are put off by the absence of a solution by Coates in regards to white supremacy and the illusions of the American Dream. I offer a solution to understanding his reasoning. This was an address to his son and his address was to ensure his son will survive. It wasn’t to convince his son that he was the next great revolutionary.I found Coates’ understanding of the systematic oppression to be akin to a mechanic’s diagnostic of a car. With so much history and knowledge about how cars operate, the mechanic knows when a car has had it and it’s time to build or buy a new one. There are no illusions because everything has been tried and nothing has worked nor will it.Coates and those of us that share his experiences know this system and see, as Coates alludes to in the final 500 words of his book, that something terrible must happen in order for this to change. Something greater than Garvey in a whirlwind. White people will not listen to us and we need to not be deceived into making it our activism to convince them.Coates language is poetic yet straight and honest. I felt at times it may have been over-poetic but nothing that distracted me. His ability to use words like “dream” or “bodies” we’re aptly applied to the subject at hand. As a father, I will be counseling my son in the same spirit. This book will aid me in doing so.

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  29. Vivian

    I liked the book because it spoke the truth.

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  30. AO

    I would recommend this book to everyone. It’s a challenge to one’s perspective and thoughts on a wide range of topics. The insight into an entirely different world.

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  31. Laurence R. Bachmann

    When I first heard about Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World and Me I criticized it (and the author) to a friend wondering what kind of father writes a book to a teenage son (the rhetorical answer being a bad one) admonishing their child to never believe in the aspirational narrative of the American Dream. “Read the book” I was told. Now that I have, I see my criticism as unfair and offensive. The rhetoric is powerful and the argument informed. The writing is beautiful and the intent quite loving. It is hard to do better for one’s child–but tragic it needs to be written.Not since William Rhoden’s Forty Million Dollar Slaves has their been a book about race quite so provocative and harsh in its condemnation of those who buy into the American Dream. The two authors approach it from different angles, I think perhaps for generational reasons but I really can’t know. To Rhoden the Michael Jordan’s of the world were sell-outs bartering their dignity and souls for a modern version of slavery. To Coates Dreamers are deceived or deluded: nobody at the bottom (and all blacks are ‘bottom’) is ever precious to those who call themselves white. At best they are props or exceptions that prove the rule that all blacks are fuel or fodder; grist in the mill that keeps the Dreamer atop our social heap. If their bodies can no longer be legally enslaved, black bodies–usually teenage sons– are with relentless regularity “broken” by whites or those who serve them. The American Dream for black citizens is a dystopia.Coates uses the tradition of the slave narrative (Frederick Douglass’ and Solomon Northrup’s come immediately to mind) to tell a powerful story of an individual’s physical, intellectual and emotional journey as a black man in America. From Western Baltimore to Howard University, NYC, and Paris Coates struggles to give discover an identity, then to debunk it, and then to refashion (quite brilliantly I thought) not as a series of truths but as a series of questions that are inherently mistrustful of Truth (particularly with a capital T). He most emphatically will not let Dreamers or those black believers in the Dream off the hook–and blame the black victims of violence. Trayvon Martin, Prince Jones, Michael Brown, Eric Garner et al., did nothing to deserve their deaths, and their deaths were not unfortunate: they were murdered.A handful of quotes: –60 percent of all young black men who drop out of high school will go to jail. This should disgrace the country. But does not… –‘Bodies were broken. People were enslaved. We meant well. We tried our best.’ “Good intention” is a hall pass through history, a sleeping pill that ensures the Dream. –the Dream is just and noble, and real, and you are crazy for seeing the corruption and smelling the sulphur. For their innocence they nullify youranger….and you find yourself inveighing against yourself. –and the Dreamers are quoting Martin Luther King and exulting nonviolence for the weak and the biggest guns for the strong.Upon finishing The World And Me I found myself almost reflexively dismissing or beginning the process of refutation that would exonerate me or be mitigating factors. And then I stopped. I decided to just sit with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ ideas and opinions for a while. To think about them. A few hours. A few days. I’m not sure how long. To let them percolate awhile and to simmer. I hope many many others will too.

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  32. Jim Brown

    Mr. Coates has given us yet another vivid picture of what it’s like to be Black in America. The picture is not a pretty one, but it is perceptive, vivid, and painful. And from all I’ve read in my 81 years of the Black experience, and from what I’ve learned from Black friends, it is a true picture.I am troubled (but not surprised) by the reviewers who call it racist, and who, I strongly suspect either didn’t read it, or didn’t understand it, or chose not to understand it. This is hard stuff for those with the sickness of White Supremacy to hear, and to accept.

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  33. E. Aller

    Everyone should read this book. First off, very well written and engaging. Definitely a page turner. Ta-Nehisi talks briefly about having written bad poetry in college, but I doubt that it was bad. The whole book has this poetic rhythm to it. Secondly, the author does an outstanding job sharing his life experiences in a way that feels real, that helps you understand the weight of his experiences and how it’s shaped him, and the very real everyday fear that he continues to live with.

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  34. Amy Breedlove

    Every new month brings with it a flood of new names forever lost to this life, here and now. Trayvon, Brown, Garner, Tamir, Emanuel 9, and Sandra, with innumerable names before and many more to come. True tragedies. Unspeakable evils.Those who bear the inhumane weight of racism seemingly burst with grief constantly. How can a human endure such relentless onslaught? The truth of being a person of color in America, is that this country was not built for all. This country was, though, built on the backs and bodies of black lives.”Whites” that benefit from white supremacy and privilege don’t want to understand the insidious cost of an empire with a history (and ongoing reality) that diminishes and devalues non-“white” persons and cultures.I’ve read “Between the World and Me” in the wake of Sandra Bland’s murder. “Suicide!” some will vehemently counter. No, Sandra was murdered.I will never know the struggle to survive that a woman, a black woman, has to daily endure, moment by moment, her whole life long. Being non-white, non-male, non-evangelical, non-heterosexual, and non-abled bodied is a constant struggle in the empire of America.Sandra Bland never had a day of her brief life where she did not have to struggle against a history and future always set against her. I’m not saying I know what precisely ended Sandra’s life, the specific mechanism of her death, but I do know that she was murdered. All black lives are daily being murdered by the “white” empire of America.Race is a construct. It is true that we, whatever shade of hue, all are human. But, some constructs of race are fuel and plunder for the militant machinery of empire.Coates explains,”Plunder has matured into habit and addiction [for “white” America]; the people who could author the mechanized death of our ghettos, the mass rape of private prisons, then engineer their own forgetting, must inevitably plunder much more. This is not a belief in prophecy but in the seductiveness of cheap gasoline.”Coates also contrasts dreamers and strugglers.Dreamers want to be “white”. The dream of equality is really a desire to be “white”; that is, to benefit from this empire, instead of being churned by empire, one has to be white. Coates does not quite say it like this. This is my interpretation of his term, “dreamers”.Strugglers have awaken from the dream, and strugglers just want to live their brief lives, they only desire to be human. Strugglers are under no dreamy illusion that they will ever fully be equal in this empire. The empire of America is not interested in or built for equality. Empire is built for and by domination. Again, this is my interpretation of Coates, and not his words.Coates writes (and lives) with an immediacy of the here and now. His writing style is hauntingly poetic and sobering. He doesn’t use the phrase, “black lives matter,” but he is clear that his physical body matters. His son’s life matters. His book is a memoir for his son’s benefit– a matter of life and death.Coates’ own awakening from the temptation to dream, and to succumb to illusion, is born out of a grounding revelation that his life, his physical body, is all he gets.Coates explains:”I have no God to hold me up. And I believe that when they shatter the body they shatter everything, and I knew that all of us—Christians, Muslims, atheists—lived in this fear of this truth. Disembodiment is a kind of terrorism, and the threat of it alters the orbit of all our lives and, like terrorism, this distortion is intentional.”Practically too, Coates exposes some often touted anthems of the white empire of America:“’Black-on-black crime’ is jargon, violence to language, which vanishes the men who engineered the covenants, who fixed the loans, who planned the projects, who built the streets and sold red ink by the barrel. And this should not surprise us. The plunder of black life was drilled into this country in its infancy and reinforced across its history, so that plunder has become an heirloom, an intelligence, a sentience, a default setting to which, likely to the end of our days, we must invariably return.”Some further contextual reflections as I read “Between the World and Me”:White privilege serves white supremacy, the social construct [of my] “whiteness” hides in the cloak of normalcy, “it is what it is”, left unquestioned & unexposed for what it really is, a sinister systemic evil.Someone recently asked me “What if what happened to Sandra Bland was about a ‘black’ officer and a ‘white’ civilian?”Police brutality is perpetrated and experienced by various persons of all constructs of race. But, what happened to Sandra is not as frequent of an experience for “white” persons. Officers operating from a position and system of white supremacy (even officers of color) are extra cruel, historically speaking, toward persons of color.Consider that our present moment in history is not far removed from slavery followed by segregation, then by Jim Crow, then by the unsettled civil rights struggle, and then still yet by an uphill climb for minorities. An African American person in his forties might only be two to three generations from slavery.This country, with all of its history, is only 4-5 generations old (depending on how one accounts for a generational span of time), that’s a pretty young country. And, if an unfolding history ebbs and flows, like a pendulum swinging forward and then slightly backwards, then true progress is slow.So, to answer the hypothetical (fantasy) question (switching the race roles of the Sandra Bland injustice), considering that African Americans are about 13% of USA population, and that black officers are a lesser percentage of the USA police force, then the frequency of “black” officer violence against “white” civilians is far less frequent then the more frequent way around. Plus, history has largely not been kind to minorities in this country.Back to Coates, even as a person of faith (clergy), I too sense in my own self that perhaps this physical life is all we get. And, to survive is to struggle; to know any degree of joy is a struggle.And, if one is a person of color (non- “white”), then the history and ongoing reality of the American empire will always be against them.

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  35. The Fifth of VA

    This is a must-read for white and Black Americans. It delves into the complex nature of the American society and the reality of a country in denial.

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  36. Martha Reinbold

    This well-written, real life very candidly and horribly truthful message to his son was hard for me – a white woman – to read and at least try to comprehend. This was a banned book in Ohio high schools – and in other libraries, and I wondered why. Thank-you Mr. Coates for writing these words and helping me begin to understand.

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  37. Amazon Customer

    Oofta. I struggle to find the words to capture all that Coates was able to share. Nothing I can say could possibly give it justice. Between the World and Me was beautiful, real, and raw. The writing truly took my breath away. It was lyrical. It made me feel. It was a gut punch. It hurt. It was a short book (150ish pages), but it wasn’t a quick read. It was full of themes of fatherhood and the Black experience, & it’ll be added to my “required reading” list.Quotes that stuck with me:”I did not tell you that it would be okay, because i never believed it would be okay.””We did not design the streets. We do not fund them. We do not preserve them. But i was there, nevertheless, charged like all the others with the protection of my body.””I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free.””The birth of a better world is not ultimately up to you, though i know, each day, there are grown men and women who tell you otherwise. The world needs saving precisely because of the actions of these same men and women. I am not a cynic. I love you, and i love the world, and i love it more with every new inch i discover. But you are a black boy, and you must be responsible for your body in a way that other boys cannot know.”

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  38. Dani Lacey

    I read this book today in one sitting. I do not think I could easily describe exactly what it is, but I’ll try. This is a book black people need to read. This is a book white people need to read. This is a book that anyone who calls themselves “American” needs to read. This is a book that writers need to read. This is a book that describes the history of our nation and — in a way — the history of the world. This is a book that tells one man’s story of how he achieved his social consciousness the impact that had on how he viewed himself.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.”

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  39. Bookwoman5

    Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about America. He writes about the things that Americans know. Yet, his poetry and reflections enable us to look at America and see. He understands that race is an economic fabrication, which clarifies why his writing negates the existence of whiteness as true, real, valid.Suburbs are more diverse than ever; black ghettos are becoming diverse through gentrification. Through it all, institutional assaults on the persons of Former Slave Descent continue. In the ’70s of Newport Beach, California, it was reported that a specific police code, NIN, meant “N….R in Newport” and officers were alerted to make certain that the unacceptables were not think they were welcome. Whether this code is still used, I don’t know. The cultural residue of its existence cannot have been erased in so short a time. Coates ties this type of police justification for the destruction of black bodies with community approval. He shows police forces as a reflection of public will.What is important about Coates’ message to his son is its immediacy, the need to define those people who lodge in our minds as the ogres in blue that bring fear into the lives of the law abiding because “Even YOU can be Prince Jones,” is alive in the book. There is also the immediacy for those who call themselves white to admit the origins of the denigration of black bodies. And, their complicity in its continuance.He is straight forward, even when recounting times when he has been enraged. He shares his growth in knowledge and experience as a source of the warning he passes on as a gift to his son. Also, this message is a remarkable gift to those young men and women whose parents may not be as present as he and his wife are, or who my still retain too much of the terrified fear to clearly explain what life is really about.

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  40. Jocelyn Turner

    How should one live within a black body?Have you or your parents ever had to have a conversation with you or you with your kids about the world and the hate that it gives to the African American body? Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates letter to his son about the world and the issues surrounding the black body.The book is beautifully written. It is an open letter to his son. It goes through Ta-Nehisis’ experiences and curiosities and how it lead him to the discoveries of his past and shaped him into the journalist he is today. He leads his son through the history of his life. From the lessons he learned as a young boy in the streets of Philadelphia, his journey through the “mecca” of Howard University where he learned the unspoken truths of the history that paved the way of the country we defined as great, to his reflections of the world and the issues that surrounds our black body.I enjoyed every bit of information that was presented in the book. He is truly a poet in and of itself. During this day and age, as black men and women, these conversations are happening more and more with our kids. There is never too much we can do to let our kids become aware of the world that surrounds them. Looking forward to reading the rest of his books and having more conversations.

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  41. Abby

    I read this book in pieces- taking in 30 or so pages at a time, letting it alter my lens. In this letter to his son, Ta-Nehisi lays out the cost of preserving “the Dream” for those that “believe they are white”.This book is consequential. Ta-Nehisi’s unmatched mastery of language punched me over and over with things I’ve long understood as fact, pushing me to internalize disgusting truths that are easier to digest academically (and therefore tuck away without inciting a call to action).A few of many lines that have stayed with me:“Fail to comprehend the streets and you gave up your body now. But fail to comprehend the schools and you gave up your body later.”“Hate gives identity.”“We knew we did not lay down the direction of the street, but despite that, we could- and must- fashion the way of our walk.”“…and the Dreamers are quoting Martin Luther King and exulting nonviolence for the weak and the biggest guns for the strong.”“They have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world.”“…love was an act of heroism.”

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  42. Penny Crandall

    Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a beautiful book, as a letter to his black son. It made me reflect on an incident that happened while I was a young mother.I used to live in Greendale, Wisconsin, one of three green belt communities built by the government at the time of Roosevelt. This was an all white community, and as I look back it must have been designed that way, sadly, by the government. I loved growing up there, About 40 years ago, I was teaching guitar in my home to a young black boy, who was about the same age as my son. One day, the boy’s mother was late picking up her son, so my son suggested that they would like to play together in our back yard. I thought that was a great idea. However, when the mother arrived, and found out that her son was not in the house, I will never forget the fear she expressed as she cried out “oh no, he will be killed” ! We immediately went outside and called for them to come home. They were perfectly safe, as I thought they would be, but I will never forget that mother’s fear. As a mother, I couldn’t imagine having to live with fear like that for my son’s life. I would recommend this book especially to anyone who questions the necessity of the “black lives matter” movement.

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  43. Masha the Space Dog

    I envy Ta-Nehisi Coates his genius. I once saw a short video interview of him and noticed a certain hard look in his eyes that, to me, didn’t line up with the sensitivity and insight of his journalism. Now that I’ve read this book, I understand why he looks like that. He describes why, as a young black boy growing up in Baltimore, any softness would have gotten him killed. It’s rare that someone writes so eloquently about being caught between two hard places, all while being human.About half way through, I realized that this book had made me depressed, with the wall-to-wall despair and violence that Coates describes. I had to remind myself that this is his particular experience — of many transformations — of being a black man in America. This isn’t the experience of every Black American, if I think of my POC friends who have been miraculously spared this hardness, but Coates has illuminated the experiences and behaviors that puzzle many non-Blacks the most. It is an insight into how humans behave when they hear the message every day that they, unlike their fellow light-skinned citizens, are likely to be dead tomorrow. I don’t know how he managed to deliver so much information into such a small book, but he explains the situation of Blacks today in the economic terms of a country’s history, in equations of giving and taking that make clear what it actually *feels* like to be born into “The Below” of your own country.This book should also be a handbook for writers. Not just because of sentences like this one: “Poetry aims for an economy of truth — loose and useless words must be discarded, and I found that these loose and useless words were not separate from loose and useless thoughts.” But also because he gives us an example of what it means to write with raw honesty, fearlessness, and emotion in the face of potentially overwhelming shame.

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  44. Jacob M Russell

    “Know thy audience.” This is basically a tenet to any kind of pitch, one you hear all the time in marketing or sales.It’s this tenet, too, I believe, that makes Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book remarkably successful.Some people have pointed out flaws in Between the World and Me. For example, the book offers no conclusion: Coates elucidates a problem without presenting a solution. And many people felt attacked and blamed by some of the rhetoric. Racial injustice in America is an emotionally-charged subject on all ends of the spectrum.But the book is formatted as a series of letters addressed to his son, which is where the book gains value. Because Coates is addressing his son, an urgency shines through that I believe wouldn’t be there if he were merely writing an autobiography. Because his audience (the you in the book) is his son, his passion carries into the ink more than if he were approaching it as a scholarly article.I’m reminded of the poet Robert Bly, who said we intuitively have a sound and rhythm in our natural language. Basically, when we speak, our language is a song. This is certainly true for Coates, whose handle on natural language makes the pages flow effortlessly. The result is a modernized picture of “the souls of black folk” (to nod to W.E.B. Du Bois) in conversational language.But it’s the passion that comes from addressing his son that carries this book to the next level. An intimate undertone elucidates the necessity for this conversation in our culture, and thus made it a worthwhile and perspective-offering read for me.

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  45. A Reader in the Southeast

    Coates has written a searing masterpiece that offers at once a theory of race in America, a critique of power, and a moving personal account of identity and struggle for one black American and his son. The theory and critique are built around three key ideas: the Body, the Dream, and the power of Those who Believe that they are White (an idea drawn from James Baldwin); the personal account draws from Coates’ own coming of age as a black Gen-Xer (as one born in 1969 to Coates’ 1975, I am bold enough to claim him for my generation) and the coming of age of his son, who is a young “millennial.” In a way, the book, addressed from father to son as a letter, wants to preserve and transmit a view of race and power across generational lines; in another way, it wants to present race precisely as a generationally transmitted idea.This book is highly recommended for all those who think that they are white. It is dor for those who struggle to understand why, since they themselves don’t harbor racist ideas, that we can still live in an America that is so torn apart by racism and haunted by segregation, fear, violence, and unrest. Coates has an answer to that question, but it doesn’t involve absolving the not-a-racist-white-person. Prepare to be challenged.I can’t speak to whether history will judge this book to be a classic or whether it is merely to be recognized as an important intervention in our own time. It is recommended to you, in our time, as an intervention.May it plant seeds of transformation.

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  46. terrellohterrell

    I have never felt more seen. Reading this book, my fears and frustrations felt visible for the first time. While the book does not end in hope, it made me feel I was not alone in my experiences. Beautifully written, Ta-Nehisi Coates makes poetry of pain and power, and art out of anxiety and anger. His open letter to his son, reads as a guided coming-of-age story, but instead he is coming-to awareness. Awareness of our true place in American history, the realities and limitations of the American Dream, the process to find purpose and meaning in a system built on oppression and devaluing the black body, and awareness of sharing space with others fighting for basic human dignity and those with the power to destroy us or help destroy the system – if they so choose. I felt seen, heard, and empowered to continue on, even if the fight is not futile. I immediately bought a second copy for my younger brother who just turned 21, and will be encouraging my entire family to read. His voice is unique, eloquent, descriptive, illuminating, and most of all, dangerous. Dangerous to the lies we believe about ourselves as black men, to the excuses the Dreamers make for their complacency in recognizing the explicit and implicit racism built into this country. Dangerous to anyone with an open mind, willing to go deeper. Dig deeper. Ask the difficult questions.A must read.

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  47. Amy Breedlove

    Every new month brings with it a flood of new names forever lost to this life, here and now. Trayvon, Brown, Garner, Tamir, Emanuel 9, and Sandra, with innumerable names before and many more to come. True tragedies. Unspeakable evils.Those who bear the inhumane weight of racism seemingly burst with grief constantly. How can a human endure such relentless onslaught? The truth of being a person of color in America, is that this country was not built for all. This country was, though, built on the backs and bodies of black lives.”Whites” that benefit from white supremacy and privilege don’t want to understand the insidious cost of an empire with a history (and ongoing reality) that diminishes and devalues non-“white” persons and cultures.I’ve read “Between the World and Me” in the wake of Sandra Bland’s murder. “Suicide!” some will vehemently counter. No, Sandra was murdered.I will never know the struggle to survive that a woman, a black woman, has to daily endure, moment by moment, her whole life long. Being non-white, non-male, non-evangelical, non-heterosexual, and non-abled bodied is a constant struggle in the empire of America.Sandra Bland never had a day of her brief life where she did not have to struggle against a history and future always set against her. I’m not saying I know what precisely ended Sandra’s life, the specific mechanism of her death, but I do know that she was murdered. All black lives are daily being murdered by the “white” empire of America.Race is a construct. It is true that we, whatever shade of hue, all are human. But, some constructs of race are fuel and plunder for the militant machinery of empire.Coates explains,”Plunder has matured into habit and addiction [for “white” America]; the people who could author the mechanized death of our ghettos, the mass rape of private prisons, then engineer their own forgetting, must inevitably plunder much more. This is not a belief in prophecy but in the seductiveness of cheap gasoline.”Coates also contrasts dreamers and strugglers.Dreamers want to be “white”. The dream of equality is really a desire to be “white”; that is, to benefit from this empire, instead of being churned by empire, one has to be white. Coates does not quite say it like this. This is my interpretation of his term, “dreamers”.Strugglers have awaken from the dream, and strugglers just want to live their brief lives, they only desire to be human. Strugglers are under no dreamy illusion that they will ever fully be equal in this empire. The empire of America is not interested in or built for equality. Empire is built for and by domination. Again, this is my interpretation of Coates, and not his words.Coates writes (and lives) with an immediacy of the here and now. His writing style is hauntingly poetic and sobering. He doesn’t use the phrase, “black lives matter,” but he is clear that his physical body matters. His son’s life matters. His book is a memoir for his son’s benefit– a matter of life and death.Coates’ own awakening from the temptation to dream, and to succumb to illusion, is born out of a grounding revelation that his life, his physical body, is all he gets.Coates explains:”I have no God to hold me up. And I believe that when they shatter the body they shatter everything, and I knew that all of us—Christians, Muslims, atheists—lived in this fear of this truth. Disembodiment is a kind of terrorism, and the threat of it alters the orbit of all our lives and, like terrorism, this distortion is intentional.”Practically too, Coates exposes some often touted anthems of the white empire of America:“’Black-on-black crime’ is jargon, violence to language, which vanishes the men who engineered the covenants, who fixed the loans, who planned the projects, who built the streets and sold red ink by the barrel. And this should not surprise us. The plunder of black life was drilled into this country in its infancy and reinforced across its history, so that plunder has become an heirloom, an intelligence, a sentience, a default setting to which, likely to the end of our days, we must invariably return.”Some further contextual reflections as I read “Between the World and Me”:White privilege serves white supremacy, the social construct [of my] “whiteness” hides in the cloak of normalcy, “it is what it is”, left unquestioned & unexposed for what it really is, a sinister systemic evil.Someone recently asked me “What if what happened to Sandra Bland was about a ‘black’ officer and a ‘white’ civilian?”Police brutality is perpetrated and experienced by various persons of all constructs of race. But, what happened to Sandra is not as frequent of an experience for “white” persons. Officers operating from a position and system of white supremacy (even officers of color) are extra cruel, historically speaking, toward persons of color.Consider that our present moment in history is not far removed from slavery followed by segregation, then by Jim Crow, then by the unsettled civil rights struggle, and then still yet by an uphill climb for minorities. An African American person in his forties might only be two to three generations from slavery.This country, with all of its history, is only 4-5 generations old (depending on how one accounts for a generational span of time), that’s a pretty young country. And, if an unfolding history ebbs and flows, like a pendulum swinging forward and then slightly backwards, then true progress is slow.So, to answer the hypothetical (fantasy) question (switching the race roles of the Sandra Bland injustice), considering that African Americans are about 13% of USA population, and that black officers are a lesser percentage of the USA police force, then the frequency of “black” officer violence against “white” civilians is far less frequent then the more frequent way around. Plus, history has largely not been kind to minorities in this country.Back to Coates, even as a person of faith (clergy), I too sense in my own self that perhaps this physical life is all we get. And, to survive is to struggle; to know any degree of joy is a struggle.And, if one is a person of color (non- “white”), then the history and ongoing reality of the American empire will always be against them.

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  48. Craigy P

    This book is a masterpiece. Rich throughout with first-person storytelling that is as intellectual as it is gritty, Mr. Coates illustrates just what it means to grow up “Black in America.” Unafraid to tell the hard truths that we face in “our reality”, he leaves no stone unturned in his penned letter to his son describing what he has faced in his short amount of time on this Earth, in this America. As a Black man from the South, I found his stories incredibly easy to relate to, as I have faced some of the same scenarios right here, south of the Mason-Dixon line.The topic of race relations makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable. However, Coates makes no apologies in his explanation of those “who believe themselves to be White.” Coates’ writing in this book makes you sit back and think, it will make many question their assumptions. What I like most about his storytelling is how he exposes (again) the double standard of how laws and policies often mean nothing when it comes to the security and general life preservation of African Americans.The analytical prose in this book perfectly serves as how the topic of race should be discussed. With empathy, understanding, and a general willingness to feel how the other side feels. I’d recommend this book to anyone to read, and it should be required for any Black person, period. Worth the time. READ THIS BOOK!

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  49. Joseph F. Towns III

    Truth vs. ProofDear Ta-Nehisi Coates,Allow me to experiment with a literary device by writing a review of your book, “Between the World and Me,” just as a letter or an ordinary email. Once upon a time near the beginning of the 19th century, mathematicians began seeing mathematics itself as a collection of self-consistent stories until Kurt Gogel comes along in 1931 with his Incompleteness Theorems, injecting uncertainty at the very heart of mathematics and proving not all of the stories in mathematics are self-consistent; nor, are without contradictions; and that there are true statements in mathematics which mathematicians will not be able to prove.In “Between the World and Me” your stories within a story reach me as brilliantly, though brutally self-consistent in that they are anchored and rooted in one of the most, if not the most inhumane systems known to man: The American system of chattel slavery. I celebrated the fact that yours is a work of nonfiction but wept since, I dare say, most of your ‘Dreamers’ would simply apologise for their ignorance, or would be programmed to read it as fiction, at best faction, a risky presumption in these days of Mark Bauerlein’s “The Dumbest Generation,” that many would even read a difference between fiction and faction at all.Speaking of non-fiction, tending to your blackness, as your son surely knows by now, requires full consciousness 24/7, unlike ministering a garden. Giving credit to your ‘Dreamers,’ Black men of an African Diaspora are targeted around the world. In a remote Swiss village – higher up from Leukerbad, the village upon which James Baldwin’s “Stranger in the Village” is based – my traveling companion — Maximilian Anton Lindbuchler known variously as Afro German or a Brown baby and I — were asked by village elders to present our tails. The crispness of our German, even in dialect, put paid to their titillated excitement and expectation of a freak show.Your literal focus on the destruction of the black body was at once profoundly real and terrifying. Who would have predicted this 21st century face of Jim Crow-ism and virtual re-enslavement in which American police departments, the new slave overseers, so freely exercise their endowed authority — as they always have — to destroy black bodies. If the greatest reward of this confrontation with naked American brutality is that it has freed you from ghosts, then, possibly, the spirits of Emmett Louis Till and countless other spirits have been set free, not to mention the spirit of Amiri Baraka, the poet, who, when he eulogized James Baldwin, said that Baldwin’s spirit was the only truth which keeps us sane.Now if you ask for my 2 cents worth, Atheism served as a masterful tool to help you sculpture the truth of America’s heinous atrocities towards black people into some sort of relief, like the massive founding fathers at Mt. Rushmore. Notwithstanding, though it would appear Martin Luther King, Jr. with his Dreams and Barack Obama, an icon of Hope, suffer the God delusion, one wonders whether Werner Heisenberg, a founder of quantum theory, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics, was deluded when he wrote, “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.” I expect both Malcolm and Baldwin would be happy with this insight, but especially Baldwin since Baldwin is so beautifully driven by love.In writing this email, I, too, thought I’d do what I thought Jimmy might do, and I, too, am over-the-moon you’ve received such a literary endorsement from the esteemed Nobel laureate, Tony Morrison. Your syntax and your uncompromising approach to the truth of American history is what makes you, in my view, Baldwin-nesque. It doesn’t surprise me one iota that you may have left your home shores in a maelstrom of controversy generated by what I call America’s backstabbing, throat-cutting, jaw breaking polemical insanity — a violence in the use of language that is beyond measure, black and white.My sons say you’re already in Paris, on the other side of what I now, through reading call, the Black Atlantic because of the number of Black bodies deposited in her depths. I have stories to share about meeting Jimmy at the famed Cafe Le Deux Magots and about meeting Malcolm X in Cairo upon his return from Mecca, not Howard. 🙂 I’ve encountered several young African American ‘wanna be’ writers who sat at Baldwin’s feet in Paris and whom Baldwin wasted no mantra time in saying, “If you wish to write, you must read. Full Stop.” Happily, you were passed the mantle, but may I add, it would be unwise for others to expect you to be James Baldwin. Only James Baldwin can be James Baldwin.I’m now seriously reading in Quantum Physics to learn of the elusive subatomic particle, the Higgs boson, which has come to be known as, ‘the God particle,’ and to explore whether there is a quantum consciousness that connects us all. I reckon I’m in search of proof for another likely truth. Like you Ta-Nehisi, I grew up knowing only black folk, and I think I owe Benjamin Elijah Mays, for whom I served as a tour guide at the Pyramids of Giza, a more rigorous, cogent, proof-like explanation for why so many prepared for an afterlife. Besides, it was Mays would encouraged me to make the world my country and mankind, my countryman.Should you feel a need to be surrounded by the sounds of English, then jump on the Euro Star at Gare du Nord. I can meet you at St. Pancreas, London, but give us some notice as I’d like for you to meet my sons and my friend, William Jones, whom I call: the Professor Emeritus of Blackness.bon Après-Midi,Joseph F Towns III.

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  50. Lakeside Terri

    This book is a must read for anyone who wonders what it is like to grow up feeling constantly in danger, and more specifically a black urban boy. Coates’ writing is fabulous. Many times I felt myself pause to appreciate the clarity and beauty of his writing. Keep in mind that this is one man’s very personal perspective shared in a letter format to his teen son and I think you will feel like you are eavesdropping in on an extended conversation that is unfortunately necessary for many urban boys.I had a very physical response to the first part of the book as I could totally relate to the constant fear and emotional drain of spending my younger years growing up in an unsafe environment – inner city Detroit during the racial tension of the 60’s. White flight was in full gear and by the time I finished elementary school, I was only one of three white kids in school who hustled home before the teens got out as I knew I’d be targeted. Flipped circumstances, same fear – only I got to leave the fear behind when I moved to another state. Coates did not have that luxury.I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I’ve already bought multiple copies for others to read. I think walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is a good background for better conversations and actions to change what is broken (and keep what is not). I look forward to what comes from Coates as his world continues to expand. I also hope that he realizes the illusion of the Dream he talks of for “those who think they are white”. There is just as much danger generalizing about “all whites” as anything else. I and many others “who think they are white” saw the Dream as something other folks had and we didn’t.

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  51. Case Quarter

    coates captured the attention of the public with this his second memoir, touched with the theme of the perils of the black body in the usa, first as an inner city youth negotiating his way between the failings of the school and the violent demands of the street and, finding his way free through the pages of The Autobiography Of Malcolm X, to his own black mecca, the environs of howard university, where his sense of safety is shattered when a howard university friend from an upper middle class background is gunned down by a policeman who followed him across three states.when the sanctioning of the murdering of young black men at the will of police becomes personal, coates finds historical perspective for his felt terror in the documentation of the violence visited upon the black body so commonplace as to have become right, with any cry of pain or protest of pain perceived as peculiar.coates’ historical observation of the treatment of the black body is an epistle to his son, a cautionary tale for a black boy coming of age in the united states. there are several nods to the writings of james baldwin, foremost his Notes to a Native Son, the book and writer toni morrison no doubt had in mind when stated in a blurb that coates’ book filled for her an intellectual void left by the death of james baldwin.the intellectual question central to the discussion is of the body for the other. the body cannot be for the other until the body is known for itself. when the body is wrenched away by the other, the other shapes and mutilates the body at will. reclamation of one’s body from the other was part of a process of which baldwin wrote. a telling moment in coates’ memoir is when a white woman lays her hand on his son, and his act of reclamation and what price that gesture could be and how it might be exacted.

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  52. Bryan Desmond

    This book has been on my list since I watched HBO’s Watchmen series and was both horrified and embarrassed that I’d never heard of the Tulsa race massacre. The creator of that show recommended this book. I felt then that it’s one thing to be aware of the horrors of this country, and quite another to be educated in the matter (an education sorely lacking in many schools across this nation). We can all of us, always, take more steps forward on a path of education. I’m reminded of the old saying, “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the second best time is now.” So here is my now.Between the World and Me is intended as a letter to Coates’ teenage son, in which he writes openly and honestly about the experience of living in a black body in this country. Writing it in this way makes the story all the more personal, as the reader experiences the story as the author’s son must have. It is immensely powerful, and heavy; so very heavy. It is a truthful examination from an undeniable perspective, and ultimately results in a journey of education (and the hope of) understanding. It is the deconstruction of such illusions as the American Dream. A dream built upon the bodies of countless black lives. A dream which is as invested in forgetting this fact as it is invested in benefiting from it. A dream from which we must collectively awaken, and struggle toward betterment, if we are to ever truly embody the ideals that this country flaunts.Ta-Nehisi Coates is, simply put, an incredible writer. I was barely a quarter of the way through this book when I decided I had to read his others as well. Coates’ atheism lends his perspective an interesting weight. He does not seek solace in a magical unknown, that cop-out doesn’t even enter the picture for him. So when he talks about the body, he speaks of life itself, and the one shot at it we get. His words seem to encase an inner fire that threatens to burn through the pages, but settles for warming your eyes instead. I found myself rereading passages just to be struck by them again. He speaks truth, that old power.

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  53. Hsinju

    This is hands down the best book on US race relations I have ever read. Also one of the best books I have ever read, period.Despite its slim appearance, Between the World and Me is as heartfelt and intense as I had hoped. The book circles around the topics of ‘losing body’ and ‘the Dream’. Delivered from a father’s perspective to his son, Coates discussed his own experiences in modern day America. His word choices were precise. Instead of the word ‘white’, Coates used ‘raised to be white’.White people are ‘raised to be white’, believe in ‘the Dream’, and live without the fear of ‘losing body’. Not unlike slavery, black people in the US still suffers from the fear of ‘losing body’ everyday. Coates had experienced it in his neighbourhood when he was eleven.While Samori (Coates’s son) did not grow up experiencing the danger of losing his body easily, he came close while watching Michael Brown’s case. It hit him, as Prince Jones’s death hit Coates.Coates encouraged the rejection of the Dream. The Dream started with enslavement – the taking – of black bodies, and therefore never rightful. He found his Mecca at Howard University, a world energised by strong black people, and his world expanded amidst peers as well as books.I’d like to think this book changed my perspective a little bit. “Between the World and Me” is indeed something worth everyone reading.

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  54. Martha Reinbold

    This well-written, real life very candidly and horribly truthful message to his son was hard for me – a white woman – to read and at least try to comprehend. This was a banned book in Ohio high schools – and in other libraries, and I wondered why. Thank-you Mr. Coates for writing these words and helping me begin to understand.

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  55. Elper

    So, this book is not really written for me, as I am a white person of privilege. But I found it to be an amazing read largely because Coates is an amazing writer. When the book resonated with me, and when it did not, the words were always very powerful and well written. Often it felt like reading something that was a cross between an academic treatise and a work of poetry. I found myself devouring every word. Sure, some things did not entirely resonate with me, but I feel that should be expected, because Ta-Nehisi Coates’ experience is so different from my experience, and this is a book about his experience. I accept that, and I respect the fact that Coates does not choose to pander to a white audience by explaining names and events with which most Blacks in America (including his son, the nominal audience), would be very familiar, or by trying to make us feel more comfortable with aspects of his experience that are difficult for us to read. And when the book did take me out of my comfort zone, at least it made me think. In the end, more things resonated with me than did not. Sometimes because they spoke to more universal themes, and sometimes because the vulnerability and honesty of Coates’ narrative put me in his shoes, if temporarily, in a way that allowed me to relate to his experience, although it has been so different from my own. There were several times when I was brought to tears while reading this book, feeling the sadness of lives that have been lost.

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  56. Kat Cameron

    This slim and impactful book took me a long time to read and I think I’ll be reading it again. Coates story, his prose, his fear, his hope and his love for his family permeates the book. More important though is his perception of what it is to be Black in America. Please do not think that by saying “his perception” I mean to imply that there is untruth or even misunderstood truth. I fully believe that his perception is one we must all become more aware of. As an acknowledged recipient of the Dream I simply had no idea and that is my own fault. I’m thankful to Coates for beginning to open my eyes. The reason it took me so long to read the book is I kept stopping and looking up names, situations, stories with which I was unfamiliar. This was an education beyond the book Coates wrote and I would like to thank him for that as well. It shames me that I didn’t know this because of my own curiosity and observation.There has been a lot of talk on social media about what this book is and is not or what it should have or could have been. I personally felt it was perfect and Coates told what needed to be heard. This is his story of what it is to be Ta-Nehisi Coates and I respect that. There is much more to say, much more to be learned and I’m on a journey to learn. I highly recommend this book as a part of any journey that seeks to understand the journey of another. I believe that the only way to a better world is mutual understanding, respect and action that shows that respect and understanding. Thanks Mr. Coates. I’m grateful.

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  57. Clarinet Esq.

    This is an intensely personal narrative. An open letter from a black man to his black son. But as a white man, I know exactly why this would make white parents want to ban it from schools.Is it violence? No. There is more violence in books that are not regularly banned, like the Hobbit. Is it racism? No. There is more open racism in books like Black Boy and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. There is more racism in To Kill a Mockingbird. But the reality is that those books are fiction, or they are old. You can say, “How terrible the past was. We are better now.”Those books don’t remind us that the second class citizen still exits, or that justice is still thwarted. This author, however, unabashedly reminds us that individual good intentions make no difference when there is indifference in the world to the violence done to black people, that is still done, because it is inherent in the manner of our own systems. This author has no forgiveness; he is not Christian minister who will comfort the conscious of our society. He is an atheist, and a realist.So, do you fail to understand why black people in this country, in 2023, are aggrieved? Read it and understand. Or don’t. It is, after all, your right to prefer comfortable lies than the hard truth of personal experience.

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  58. Alyson Hinkie

    I finished Ta-Nehisi’s book Between the World and Me a couple weeks ago and have been allowing it to settle in my brain and my heart for a little while before I attempt to write about it. This is a letter to his son – a long letter, but a short book, short not because it does not have a great deal to say, but because there is not one unnecessary word in it. For the sake of the written word, this book should be required reading for every writer alive.Sometimes as I was reading, I had the internal cringing that I would have if I picked up someone’s diary and read something so intimate and brutally honest that no one should dare read the words. This book is hard. It left me shaken at times. It left me full of more questions about this world and my nation and humanity than it did answers.The things in life that are most worth seeking are often tied into such paradox that we are guaranteed never to fully arrive at the core of them. Freedom and fate, justice and mercy sit in opposition to each other and yet go hand in hand. And somehow, the color of our skin means everything and nothing at the same time.When I first finished the book, I almost wanted to throw it across the room. So much pain and fear and brokenness – and no solutions. He notes in the book, “My mother and father were always pushing me away from secondhand answers – even the answers they themselves believed. I don’t know that I ever found any satisfactory answers of my own. But every time I ask it, the question is refined.” So now what? We must keep asking the questions, if only to learn to ask better questions. We need eyes to see, ears to hear the things that make us squirm with discomfort, that fail to align with anything predictable, fair, simple, or comfortable.He writes from his particular experience which sprung from the brutal streets of Baltimore, but there are immigrants, refugees, homeless, mentally ill, and abused children living all around us. His particular story jolts me into deep remembering that their stories are our stories. We can choose to ignore it, but that cannot make it less true. Our story will someday be history, and what will that story reveal about our hearts?“Mistakes were made. Bodies were broken. People were enslaved. We meant well. We tried our best. “Good intention” is the hall pass through history, a sleeping pill that ensures the Dream.” I don’t want to live like I’m sleeping.

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  59. John P. Jones III

    Way back at the beginning of time, that is, the 1960’s, Richard Wright and James Baldwin were obligatory reading for me, and I have read much of their work. I still recall a black woman in Atlanta damning me with faint praise: “I think you are a moderate liberal.” Likewise, the lyrics of an old Phil Ochs song, “Love me, I am a liberal” have rolled around in my head: “…and I knew all the old union hymns.” Nowadays, I suppose, Wright and Baldwin ARE “the old union hymns.” America has made so much progress in race relations since the “Amos and Andy Show” was the only authorized black presence on TV, and Jackie Robinson proved that a black man could play in professional sports. Some blacks are now “truffled” in my neighborhood. There is a Black Caucus in Congress, and then there is the matter of the President… Progress.But there is also the stagnation, and backlash. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book concerns the latter. His first name is derived from an old Egyptian word for Nubia, the area to the south of them that was inhabited by blacks. The New York Times review of this book underscored the similarities, and delineated the differences between this work and Baldwin’s 

    The Fire Next Time

    . Both take the structure of an older black man telling a much younger black man the (racial) “facts of life” in America. In Baldwin’s case, it was to his nephew, in Coates, it is to his son.Coates grew up “on the wrong side of the tracks” in Baltimore. At least, that is what it was called in Baldwin’s time. Perhaps it still is. A tough neighborhood. A war zone, literal, and of sorts. A lot of psychic energy is spent just trying to stay alive… of watching for what is out of place on the “trail” to school, and does that bring danger? Coats quantifies this, in terms of brain time, at 33%. Cuts down on your time for writing the next “killer app.” Another quantification: “At the onset of the Civil War, our stolen bodies were worth four billion dollars, more than all of American industry, all of American railroads, workshops, and factories combine, and the prime product rendered by our stolen bodies – cotton – was America’s prime export. The richest men in America lived in the Mississippi River Valley, and they made their riches off our stolen bodies.” He provides no basis for the four billion figure… and for those who would dispute it, is it double or half? I recently read and reviewed 

    Ghosts Along The Mississippi: The Magic of the Old Houses of Louisiana, New Revised Edition

    , with the subtitle that includes “magic”. There was nothing magically about it. Far more than an abstract four billion, those “ghosts” of old mansions quantify what was stolen.His is a staccato writing style; the “takeaways” of a 1000 page book. Concerning schools, quotes worthy of Paul Goodman: “I was a curious boy, but the schools were not concerned with curiosity. They were concerned with compliance…Schools did not reveal truths, they concealed them.” He questions the meek acceptance and embrace of the “tear gas” of passive resistance. He admires Malcom X. Coates names 10-15 black men who have been killed by the police, the police that he says are so instrumental in fulfilling America’s will on race relations. Coates went to the black “Mecca,” Howard University, in Washington, DC, and was dazzled by the variety that is encompassed by that word: “blackness.” He finds love on more than one occasion.Prince Jones, a fellow classmate of his at Howard was murdered by the police. He described this killing in detail, and has a heart-breaking visit to his mother, a medical doctor, who had worked her way up from scrubbing white people’s floors in Louisiana. His eulogy for Jones is haunting and beautiful. Accountability? There never is any. “And no one would be brought to account for this destruction, because my death would not be the fault of any human but the fault of some unfortunate but immutable fact of ‘race,’ imposed upon an innocent country by the inscrutable judgment of invisible gods. The earthquake cannot be subpoenaed. They typhoon will not bend under indictment. They sent the killer of Prince Jones back to his work, because he was not a killer at all. He was a force on nature, the helpless agent of our world’s physical laws.” Scathing, as good as Baldwin ever wrote.Coates seminal work is an update on the much “progress” that has NOT been made. Normally I would give it my special rating for an exceptional work, 6-stars. However, I did have some problems with it. He goes to France, his first trip abroad, and is enthralled… I’ve been there… figuring the 6eme arrondissement is the “center of the universe.” However, he never mentions an essential word for understanding France, “les banlieues,” literally, the suburbs, with such a different connotation than in America. A fellow reviewer has mentioned that he has become more critical after his first visit. And then I would also be critical of his use of the term “Dreamer,” of which there are many, for sure, but are not a monolithic block that seems to mean “non-black.” And he never develops the implications of the fact that the cop who killed Prince Jones was black also. Like “les banlieues,” “Tom,” of an avuncular nature, does not appear in his work either. Still, overall, a very important work, for America today, and for those still singing those “old union hymns.” 5-stars.

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  60. S. Lee

    New Summary (11/11/16) (note: all references are Kindle loc):“But race is the child of racism, not the father…They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people.” (74, 1522). These two statements neatly bookend a father’s affection yet sober letter addressing his son. Much like how Lamentations was composed in the painful wake of the fall of Jerusalem, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes Between the World and Me following his tear-filled son’s acknowledgment of the undefeatable and inescapable grip of ‘the Dream’ (1355). ‘The Dream’ is the faceless, wish-fulfilling entity of White America. It is built on the backs of black bodies for the flourishing of white bodies. Devalued and abused, Coates centralizes on black bodies: their historical and current currency, their entrapment and exploitation. Moving from the meta to the personal, Coates retells his own experiences of the streets and the schools: “Failed to comprehend the streets and you gave up your body now. But fail to comprehend the schools and you gave up your body later” (263). Constantly tussling in fearful unrest, Coates eventually found haven at ‘The Mecca,’ Howard University. From here and onwards, Coates sensed several levels of liberation and black beauty. First, Coates’s education supplied untold stories of black royalties in Africa and endless opportunities to pursue questions concerning the gaping gap between the world and him (1194). Second, Coates’s visits to France burst his fear constructed conception of black bodies as equation components (1290) to a world of their own (1237). Third, the heroic act of love received (631) and learning the unnatural act of giving love exposed his woundedness (1302). Instead of “seeing a mirror dimly,” Coates saw fearfully: manufactured in America, his black eyes saw black truth (1310). Therefore, the black struggle is necessary: not to win but to live honorably and sanely (1007). It is only through struggle that black bodies can be made into a people.Old summary (7/9/16):Possibly one of the most beautiful and powerful works I have ever read. Coates writes with elegant simplicity that is both piercing and remedying. Forged as words of wisdom to his adolescent son, Coates unrelentingly warns of ‘the Dreamers’ and rectifies the beauty and value of black bodies. The Dreamers do not want them, but cannot but need them. Therefore, the Dreamers name them and forget them to further exploit them. Yet, Coates powerfully exclaims: “They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people.” The struggle is for the awareness and valuation of the beauty that is inherent in black bodies and their cultivations. It is the struggle that fashioned them. It is the struggle that sustains them. It is the struggle that will revive them.cf. […]

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  61. Charyna Rdgz

    Had to buy it for one of my classes, but I loved it. The author does a great job in summer hung you in this book, words are almost like poetry. Teaches you from a fresh and very close to the heart perspective. Would recommend 100%

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  62. Errick A. Nunnally

    This book goes a long way toward untangling the history of black people in the United States. A history run through with the bones and blood of African-Americans long thought to be less than human and still thought of in that way by some. A way of life and policies inherently designed to shatter and remove what humanity was left after the abolition of slavery. Coates writes passionately about this subject and his own evolution growing up in Baltimore and other cities in America and he does so as a statement to his son. It is an earnest declaration of facts that have brought us here and “Between The World And Me” is the result of Coates’ unyielding, life-long investigation. He writes of fear and the false promise of race in a way that was so close to my own understanding that it brought me to tears more than once.To be heard, to be understood, and to belong is the civilized human dream too often denied to blacks in America. Having been forged by the fears of generation after generation, both black and white, American society needs to reflect more carefully on itself. This book is essential reading for anyone sturdy enough to question their place in American history and willing to strive to understand the devastating effect that this country has had on its brown-skinned population. This book is not only for Coates’ son, but for those who believe themselves to be white and wish to be better, to be more, to understand.

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  63. EqualTime

    I will shorten my review by referencing David Brooks’ review in the NYT, which I totally agree with, and a review here on Amazon, in which the reviewer said this book is like looking at America through a black lens. To these comments, I add that not only is it a black lens, but the lens of an author who seems to be channeling the entire burden of nearly every black American who has been enslaved and oppressed. From that perspective, it is difficult to challenge Mr. Coates. But as David Brooks noted, there is so much more to the story of America.In Mr. Coates’ perspective, it is very difficult for me to understand how a young black man could rise from the crime filled streets of inner-city Baltimore to be the National Editor of the Atlantic, an renowned author, and guest on near everly relevant news program from Fresh Air, to The Daily Show to Charlie Rose to Meet the Press, let alone how a black man could rise to become President of the United States. As Brooks noted, perhaps he writes to be misunderstood. More importantly to me, Mr. Coates passes on every opportunity to address the role Personal Responsibility and Decision Making plays in the ability to overcome whatever cards life has dealt to you. In his letter to his son, when his son laments that Darren Wilson will not be charged for shooting Michael Brown, there is not the slightest hint of discussion with his son about the choices Michael Brown made, or which he didn’t make, which might have changed his fate. Interestingly, on HuffPo, a recent article gave voice to the high school classmates Mike Brown left behind, and their perspective one year later. Most of what I read included the concept – I will not make the choices Mike made…. or something to that effect. I cannot argue that we “Dreamers” live a charmed life. We do. And Mr. Coates likes to visit Paris. The choices he made and the environment he was raised in, notwitstanding his daily fear of survival, has enabled him to do so. He had a very strong father figure, as his son does. I would have preferred Mr. Coates to provide at least as much emphasis on Personal Responsibilty as his hero, Malcom X did. And by the way, when Mr. Coates says that if he’d have had a flag when he was growing up, it would have been the photo of Malcom with an assault rifle looking out a window. Apparently, the fact that Malcom was defending his family from the assault of other black men, the Nation of Islam, at that time, is not relevant to the image. Mr. Coates is excellent at presenting his perspective, but not the whole story. In the 1980’s, when Japan was at the peak of its economic power, I recall overhearing a locker room discussion wherein a business man described a long conversation with his Japanese counterpart, in which he expressed his demands, and the Japanese exec said “yes” to everything. The American got the contract, and it was as if the conversation didn’t take place. The American called the Japanese exec and said, “but you said “yes” to everything!” The exec responded, “Yes means I understand. It does not mean I agree.” I now have a much better understanding of a black perspective such as Mr. Coates, even if I do not agree with all of it. I do agree that “white America” has been far to patient with our police forces and their too slow evolution away from undervaluing black lives, evidenced by the recent deaths of Sandra Bland, Sam DuBose, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, Christian Taylor, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and yes, Mike Brown to name a few from just the past year. Some of them committed minor crimes, some of them did not. But all of them received a death penalty (Bland indirectly) at the hands of a police officer on the street. This cannot be accepted, and it is on all of us Americans to demand rapid change in our local police departments, all of whom are just one Brian Encina or Brad Miller away from a national incident and a multi-million dollar payout. Thanks Mr. Coates, and thank you for listening.

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  64. M. Fandey

    I just finished “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It’s framed as a letter to his son. Any parent that has wanted to prepare and protect their child from the world can empathize with his letter. [Spoiler alert: If you’re white and can’t see actions of whites by commission or omission as being the cause of or a significant enabler of the enslavement, oppression and/or debasement of blacks then you will find this book quite upsetting.]He describes to his son a world where race is a social construct; where some people are the plunderers (the Dreamers) and others are the plundered. [This is where many of Coates detractors get really pissed off; Coates uses a broad brush to explore and describe his views on race. His simplistic treatment of whites as monolithic can raise the dander of some. However, the power structures of Western Civilization are decidedly white as are most of the fervent supporters for the norms established by those power structures.] Coates teases out willful ignorance of the plunderers, the willful clinging to a fictional narrative that emboldens acts of dominance over those to be dominated. A narrative that allows the Dreamers to believe their actions are noble, just and right. The book is an indictment for some, a pathway to empathy for others, and hopefully a call to action for all. Despite the direness of circumstances it’s a wonderfully hope-inspiring read.Note: Yes, Coates is the son of Black Panther. I don’t claim that Coates is the epitome of objectivity, nor does he make such a claim. But he speaks a truth that echoes loudly for me.

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  65. Joseph F. Towns III

    Truth vs. ProofDear Ta-Nehisi Coates,Allow me to experiment with a literary device by writing a review of your book, “Between the World and Me,” just as a letter or an ordinary email. Once upon a time near the beginning of the 19th century, mathematicians began seeing mathematics itself as a collection of self-consistent stories until Kurt Gogel comes along in 1931 with his Incompleteness Theorems, injecting uncertainty at the very heart of mathematics and proving not all of the stories in mathematics are self-consistent; nor, are without contradictions; and that there are true statements in mathematics which mathematicians will not be able to prove.In “Between the World and Me” your stories within a story reach me as brilliantly, though brutally self-consistent in that they are anchored and rooted in one of the most, if not the most inhumane systems known to man: The American system of chattel slavery. I celebrated the fact that yours is a work of nonfiction but wept since, I dare say, most of your ‘Dreamers’ would simply apologise for their ignorance, or would be programmed to read it as fiction, at best faction, a risky presumption in these days of Mark Bauerlein’s “The Dumbest Generation,” that many would even read a difference between fiction and faction at all.Speaking of non-fiction, tending to your blackness, as your son surely knows by now, requires full consciousness 24/7, unlike ministering a garden. Giving credit to your ‘Dreamers,’ Black men of an African Diaspora are targeted around the world. In a remote Swiss village – higher up from Leukerbad, the village upon which James Baldwin’s “Stranger in the Village” is based – my traveling companion — Maximilian Anton Lindbuchler known variously as Afro German or a Brown baby and I — were asked by village elders to present our tails. The crispness of our German, even in dialect, put paid to their titillated excitement and expectation of a freak show.Your literal focus on the destruction of the black body was at once profoundly real and terrifying. Who would have predicted this 21st century face of Jim Crow-ism and virtual re-enslavement in which American police departments, the new slave overseers, so freely exercise their endowed authority — as they always have — to destroy black bodies. If the greatest reward of this confrontation with naked American brutality is that it has freed you from ghosts, then, possibly, the spirits of Emmett Louis Till and countless other spirits have been set free, not to mention the spirit of Amiri Baraka, the poet, who, when he eulogized James Baldwin, said that Baldwin’s spirit was the only truth which keeps us sane.Now if you ask for my 2 cents worth, Atheism served as a masterful tool to help you sculpture the truth of America’s heinous atrocities towards black people into some sort of relief, like the massive founding fathers at Mt. Rushmore. Notwithstanding, though it would appear Martin Luther King, Jr. with his Dreams and Barack Obama, an icon of Hope, suffer the God delusion, one wonders whether Werner Heisenberg, a founder of quantum theory, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics, was deluded when he wrote, “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.” I expect both Malcolm and Baldwin would be happy with this insight, but especially Baldwin since Baldwin is so beautifully driven by love.In writing this email, I, too, thought I’d do what I thought Jimmy might do, and I, too, am over-the-moon you’ve received such a literary endorsement from the esteemed Nobel laureate, Tony Morrison. Your syntax and your uncompromising approach to the truth of American history is what makes you, in my view, Baldwin-nesque. It doesn’t surprise me one iota that you may have left your home shores in a maelstrom of controversy generated by what I call America’s backstabbing, throat-cutting, jaw breaking polemical insanity — a violence in the use of language that is beyond measure, black and white.My sons say you’re already in Paris, on the other side of what I now, through reading call, the Black Atlantic because of the number of Black bodies deposited in her depths. I have stories to share about meeting Jimmy at the famed Cafe Le Deux Magots and about meeting Malcolm X in Cairo upon his return from Mecca, not Howard. 🙂 I’ve encountered several young African American ‘wanna be’ writers who sat at Baldwin’s feet in Paris and whom Baldwin wasted no mantra time in saying, “If you wish to write, you must read. Full Stop.” Happily, you were passed the mantle, but may I add, it would be unwise for others to expect you to be James Baldwin. Only James Baldwin can be James Baldwin.I’m now seriously reading in Quantum Physics to learn of the elusive subatomic particle, the Higgs boson, which has come to be known as, ‘the God particle,’ and to explore whether there is a quantum consciousness that connects us all. I reckon I’m in search of proof for another likely truth. Like you Ta-Nehisi, I grew up knowing only black folk, and I think I owe Benjamin Elijah Mays, for whom I served as a tour guide at the Pyramids of Giza, a more rigorous, cogent, proof-like explanation for why so many prepared for an afterlife. Besides, it was Mays would encouraged me to make the world my country and mankind, my countryman.Should you feel a need to be surrounded by the sounds of English, then jump on the Euro Star at Gare du Nord. I can meet you at St. Pancreas, London, but give us some notice as I’d like for you to meet my sons and my friend, William Jones, whom I call: the Professor Emeritus of Blackness.bon Après-Midi,Joseph F Towns III.

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  66. Kim

    I did not learn anything new about systemic racism and society (of which everything he described is true), but rather gained a deeper understanding of the author’s life realities and how he fits into this realm. As the book is written for his adolescent son, he shares his beliefs and advice in the context of who they are as black men. It is not a light and fast read even though the book is not long. Coates writes in poetic language and you pause as you read to appreciate and conceptualize his expressions. He writes in a way that you can understand why he is who he is. Whether or not you agree with what he says regarding our society, its his reality and it helps readers to understand this viewpoint (and I agree with him 100%). I appreciate that he wrote this book to guide his son into adulthood. It helps us all to be more aware of who we are.

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  67. Alan L. Chase

    “Between The World And Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates struck me in much the same way that the early writings of James Baldwin hit me in the solar plexus when I first read them. This book takes the form of a long letter sent by the author to his adolescent son, describing his view of their place in the world as Americans of color. It is strident, angry, insightful, infuriating, humbling and eye-opening. Mr. Coates shares from his protean views of the world based on his sojourns in places like Howard University, Paris, the South Side of Chicago and his current home in New York City.I agree with Toni Morrison’s assessment that this book should be required reading for anyone who wants to attempt to see the world through the eyes of a Black man who feels that at any moment forces beyond his control may succeed in gaining access to his body and cause him to do things he does not wish to do and be things he does not wish to be. In the ongoing clash of ideas between “Black Lives Matter” vs. “All Lives Matter,” this very personal observation shines a bright light on one thinking man’s experiences of running the gauntlet of segregation, racism and marginalization.This book is not only a very personal and reflective gift to young Master Coates from his father, it is also a generous contribution to the discourse we should be having with one another about issues of race in America. The experiences and reflections that this author shares are both timely and timeless. I have a friend who is using this book in a course he is teaching at the University of Texas. It is my hope that “Between The World And Me” will be part of the syllabus for most of us in the School of Lifelong Learning.

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  68. L. Lawson

    This book is written in a very thoughtful, engaging prose style and will make you think, empathize and continue to hope for a better more equal life for all.

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  69. Ron Piekaar

    Having a degree and vocational history in the field of Sociology, I am always curious to read books that give personal insights into cultures that I have not personally experienced. In this book, I was not disappointed. First I will say that I particularly enjoyed the format of a father attempting to prepare his young son for the world, as seen through the father’s eyes, even though limited to the world according to Baltimore. Overall I was struck by two things. One was the author’s gift for writing, and this, despite the fact that numerous references and names were unfamiliar to me, as could be expected. He wasn’t writing to me. But perhaps the more important thing that struck me was the total lack of a broader world context, that might have been important to me as a teenager, to help me understand a possible solution to the issues my father was attempting to make me aware of. I might have liked to have known, for instance, that prejudice and discrimination is a two horned beast. That not only has it been common for millennia for races and cultures to be prejudice against each other, but in addition, there is often also a ‘pecking order’, within the same race and culture, that creates a hierarchy or class structure within that race and culture. The East Indian social structure is a classic example of the latter. New York City is a classic example of the former. Visit New York City and you will notice a very well defined division of races and cultures, and neighborhoods with well understood boundaries designed to separate Italians from Puerto Ricans and Jews from Irish… ad nauseam. And in terms of a possible solution, how ’bout the Jews as an example. In the Jews we have a race of people hated, chased off their land, and who were the subject of the “final solution” which was, in the psychopathic mind of Adolf Hitler, to kill them all. So how have they survived and prospered? Hint: in how many Jewish neighborhoods do you find them wantonly killing each other in the streets? One of the most effective means of survival and prospering is helping, supporting and protecting those like yourself. Many races and cultures have learned this simple truth and prospered in spite of ages of prejudice. We all are victims of our own creation. If we do not like the results of what we have created, only we can change it. We are not validated or destroyed by what others tell us we are or how we are treated. Our true validation and worth can only come from what we tell ourselves. Become the creator of the world you want to live in. Killing each other will never get us there.

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  70. NDP_NYC

    It’s hard to know what to say about a book about which so much has already been said. If you’re familiar with Coates’ writing from The Atlantic Magazine or elsewhere you already know that, in terms of style, he is a gifted writer who is always a pleasure to read, regardless of the subject matter he writes about.The subject matter here, however, is what is most important about “Between the World and Me.” Coates’ uses the experience of young African Americans and his own experiences growing up to create a poetic and impassioned letter to his son and, indeed to the world, about what it means to be a person of color in the United States at the beginning of the 21st century. My personal belief is that the issue of race and institutionalized racism is the most important issue we as a country face right now. The events of the past two years have focused a bright light on issues that many of us were only dimly aware of. Or, more accurately, that we knew about but didn’t want to face. For those who realize that they MUST be faced, no matter how painful we find them, Coates provides a remarkable first step with this compelling, poetic, and sometimes heartbreaking expressionistic book.The inability to see what causes pain, even though it is right in front of us, is a very human defense mechanism. But it is a defense mechanism that does not serve any of us or our country well. Empathy and a desire to understand that which we haven’t personally experienced but that we know are pernicious facts of modern Anerican life are key to the changes we must make. As an upper-middle class white woman, I’ve lived through very few of the events and feelings Coates describes in “Between the World and Me.” Which is all the more reason for me to read it and recommend it.This is undoubtedly one of the most important books of the last 50 years. If I could gift a copy to every single American, I would.

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  71. Spectre

    I agree with other “white” reviewers that this book is not intended to persuade or provoke us, nor is it presumptuous enough to seek to educate African Americans about their status in American society. The latter, Coates argues, know well enough (or, if they are young, soon will know) the daily threat — intellectual, emotional, but, above all, physical, that our society imposes on them. Instead, Coates, in the process of telling his son about his lifelong journey of discovery about who he is and the people and source materials that have sustained and enlightened him, takes the reader along for the ride. If I read his message correctly, what he is saying is that the human race’s deepest, most destructive flaw is its propensity to degrade and exclude “the other.” In America, this category has periodically embraced a multiplicity of groups of all “races,” but it endures most severely, with physically destructive consequencees, for African Americans. Where “white” Americans see visible progress in overcoming our long history of racial discrimination, Coates argues that movement in this direction, in the eyes of black people, is glacial and unconvincing. What is left for them is, on the one hand, to advance with a keen eye out for self-protection, and, on the other, to nudge “people who think they are white” into the realization that none of us is anything of the kind.Coates’ narrative constitutes a profound challenge to readers, but that challenge is leavened by writing so eloquent and beautiful to justify reading it for its own sake. This is a great, great book.

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  72. Just Chris.

    I’m not sure what I expected; I didn’t even really know what this book would be about. However, it kept showing up on my feed, and I decided to give it a shot. From the first page, the author pulls you in and never let’s go. Early on, you understand that this is a letter to his son that is so beautifully and eloquently written that you want more when the book ends. Ta-nehisi made me want to know writers and thinkers like him; he’s just that amazing! I have the book, which I will reread and highlight my favorite parts, and I listened to the author narrate the audiobook, which was a plus. Please, add this to your collection because he takes you on a journey and will have you paralleling your personal narrative with his. It’s written from (his) Black male perspective, but I found my story, a Black female’s story there too. And as profound as this book is, Ta-nehisi still manages to not sound condescending, arrogant, elitist, or preachy while getting you to glean his struggles, setbacks, and triumphs–which in itself is a feat. Honestly, the way he writes is a real talent. When they say that Whitney and Aretha could sing the alphabet, that analogy embodies Mr. Coates. The way he weaves words together is a testament to his talent. I want more!

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  73. Matt G. Leger

    Just started reading this tonight at the bookstore after reading a great deal about it online. I have no clue how to answer Mr. Coates, or what should or can be done to solve the problems he writes about so eloquently — problems that have dogged our nation since before its founding.I do know, however, that we who live under the rubric of “white” (erroneously, he maintains; see the book) — and enjoy the privileges our society awards that designation, not the least of which is not having to fear for our lives every time we walk out of our homes or are stopped by a police officer — owe him, at the very least, the simple courtesy of a full and fair hearing. We owe him the respect of at least reading what he has to say, in its entirety — about his lived experience being black and male in this society; about our history as viewed from his people’s perspective, and informed by his painstaking and voluminous research; and his quite understandable fears for his own young son, growing up with these same problems still unsolved.We owe him (and his son, and all the others like them both) the fairness of hearing him out, paying close attention, and then sitting with it, thinking about it, not flinching from his criticisms and conclusions, however painful they may be…and then we need to discuss it among ourselves, as well as with him and other people of color, and with our leaders. Whatever the solution(s) may be, I’m reasonably sure that finding them has to start there.

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  74. Richard DeWald

    I could not put it down.I thought it would probably take me weeks of bringing this book along with me for my solo meals out, which is how I do much of my reading. I’d get through a bit here, chew on it, bite off a bit more, etc.Instead, I read it from beginning to end in one sitting, staying up long past my bedtime because I prefered reading it to sleeping. I began the book as my accompaniment for a solo meal out, that meal ran into more than two hours, then I brought it home and continued to read it until I was surprised and saddened by the last page.This is at once a beautiful, touching, moving and profoundly insightful book. It answered, in one swiftly deft sweep of elegant prose, questions about racial identity in America that have puzzled me since I realized that I was “white” and there were other people, mostly distinguished by skin color and economic class, who were “colored.” I would guess I was around four or five years old when I first wondered why white and colored people were so angry with each other. It was 1964.This book is written, earnestly and sincerely, as a letter to his son. There is no artifice in this. It is a letter from a black father frightened for his black son, who wants him to understand his situation and be able to discern lies from truth as he deals with it. He almost too-dryly lays out the dangerous situations over which his son will have no control other than over his own actions and mental repose, explaining each with simple equations of self-interest, power and brutality.He then details his own struggle and evolution with all this, honestly unearthing his own now-abandoned limited views of the world, some left on the streets of Paris and some left on the boulevards of a now-gentrifying Harlem, now strolled by white women with strollers, the very neighborhood in which I live today and read this remarkable book.He describes white people as “people who believe themselves to be ‘white.'” This distinction is the central revelation of this book for me as a man of caucasian and European descent. I was primed and readied for this view because I’ve never felt my “white” identity was something real. I’m a little Northern European on my mother’s side, a little Southern European on my father’s.I’ve had my DNA sequenced, so I know that my father’s ancestors emigrated from Northern Africa to Southern Europe fifty-thousand years ago, about twenty-thousand years before my mother’s ancestors came out of the Caucus mountains and moved to Northern Europe. I have more in common genetically with people in the Basque region of Spain than any other currently identifiable region, but my father’s family regards it’s European roots as being in Alsace, we have record of a DeWald as a tax collector in the region in the eleventh century.However, the name DeWald has it’s richest history in South Africa, at least for the last couple of centuries, and in German, it means “of the woods.”So, WTF am I? A German/English/Basque/Alsatian/Afrikaner? I’m all those things, but according to the US culture, I’m “white” along with my friends whose ancestors followed an entirely different path. We share a skin color and assumedly “not one drop” of the adulterating “colored” blood. That’s what makes us white, and it is the only thing that makes us white. We believe we are and so does everyone around us.This is the point that Mr Coates makes so eloquently. “White” isn’t a race, as such, it’s an identity, and the degree to which one possesses the identity (in their view and in the view of others) determines which side of the racial dividing (white vs. non-white) line one lives in the United States. The United States has, in Mr. Coates view, a heritage of enslavement, a history of violent oppression, and a continuing practice of violating non-white personhood. He points out, coldly and rationally, that non-white people, today, still lack boundaries and protections against institutional and state-sanctioned forms of systemic violence.White people, or as Mr. Coates reminds us, “people who believe themselves to be white” take inviolable boundaries and protections against these kinds of institutional and state-sanctioned manifestations of systemic violence for granted. This is what really makes them white.I live in Harlem. It would shock me to the very core of my being if a NYPD officer stopped and frisked me for drugs, weapons or contraband. It would be a turning point in my life, a story I would tell for years, something I would pursue remediation for to the full extent possible, with no fear of further persecution because I chose to do so.I walk by black men being stopped and frisked by NYPD on these same Harlem streets so routinely that I hardly take notice of it.There’s nothing rhetorical about that. It’s a fact of my own life.If I had a black son, I would require him to read this book. Today.

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  75. C. Langwell

    This was one of the most eye opening, touching, raw books I’ve read in a long time. Coates takes the world he lives in and opens it up, dissecting it on the table for all of us to see and experience. This book is a letter to his son as a way of reaching out to him after yet another unarmed black man is killed while in custody. In doing so, he offers an intimate, bare bones explanation into what it’s like to be a black man in America – the fear, the discrimination, the struggle. Then there’s Coates’ way with language. This man can write. When I wasn’t tearing up over some new truths I was being introduced to, I was tearing up over his beautiful writing.”In my small apartment, she kissed me, and the ground opened up, swallowed me, buried me right there in that moment.””The truth of us was always that you were our ring. We’d summoned you out of ourselves, and you were not given a vote. If only for that reason, you deserved all the protection we could muster.””If you’re black, you were born in jail,” Malcolm said. And I felt the truth of this in the blocks I had to avoid, in the times of day when I must not be caught walking home from school, in my lack of control over my body. Perhaps I too might live free….Read this book. It’s not a long read, but it’s one that will make you think. I read this on my Kindle, but now I plan to buy a copy or two just so I can make sure everyone in my house gets to read this and learn.

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  76. MacC

    Most people would, or should, know about what is written. It’s the way the subject is written.. The author is a master with words

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  77. J. M. Hayes

    I never realised how much I had in common, on a subconscious level, with Mr. Coates. Yes we are both black fathers, of black sons, growing up confused and angry, and a little frightened. But we’re also slightly out of step with our own “community” . I could never find the words as eloquently as the writer did here, but I did find myself reading it from the perspective of both father and son. And, based on my own age, from grandfather as well. This is a deeply personal account, which I’m a little surprised even made it into print, on such a large scale. But I’m glad that it did. Everyone should read this, if only to understand what drives so many men in their struggle as fathers.

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  78. F.L.M.

    As many have acknowledged, this book is necessary, essential reading for our times, but some potential readers are skeptical of its premises, others of its apparent conclusions. In order to appreciate Coates’s insights, readers must understand three things.First, his audience is, exclusively, his 15 year old son. Unlike Baldwin’s letter to his 15-year old nephew in The Fire Next Time, Coates never talks past his son to white readers. Everything in this book is primarily for his son, which means many readers will feel left out of the book or baffled by the directions it goes in.Second, his purpose is not to make a sustained argument with a clear thesis and supporting evidence, but rather to ensure that his son understands that the American Dream is not for him; no matter how comfortable he is with his friends, in his school, and with other people in other places, his son must understand that it can all turn against him. Coates acknowledges that his son began to understand this with Michael Brown’s death, just as he understood it with his college friend Prince Jones’s death. This outlook is too pessimistic for many readers, black and white, but that’s true only if you consider his insights within a framework of an integrationist dream. Coates ends the book ambivalently: He is optimistic with the hope that his son will discover and thrive on the virtues and strengths of black solidarity, but he can’t forget the dangerous delusions of “Dreamers” who believe in things that don’t exist and cannot see things as they are.Third, despite Coates’s empirical claims and details, this is book is guided by two emotions, fear and love. Readers who overlook or dismiss the centrality of both of these emotions will not understand Coates’s anecdotes about his experiences, and they certainly won’t understand why Coates shares them with his son. Indeed, one could go so far as to say that this book is essentially about fear and love. That won’t satisfy readers who think that a book with political implications should be rooted in logic, but again, he isn’t writing for those readers; he’s writing to and for his son. I, for one, would love to see what his son would write back to him.A few complaints: Coates’s insights develop within a broad history of writing about the black experience, and I wish he had referred to his intellectual predecessors rather than just name-drop Pan Africanists who were important at a key point in his life. The most obvious example is Du Bois, who gave voice to the idea that animates the book’s title, but goes unmentioned. Maybe for the paperback edition he could include a list of books, poems, stories, and essays for further reading. Also, Coates’s account of his friend Prince Jones’s death could be clearer about how the behavior of blacks in power reinforces the structural racism that he believes led to Prince’s death. I get what he’s saying, but then again, I’m working from the same premise. Others, including perhaps his son, might be confused about it. Lastly, when Coates describes “‘White America'” as a “syndicate arrayed to protect its exclusive power to dominate and control our bodies,” or that the broad American violence against blacks “was of a piece and by design” with the neighborhood violence that gripped everyone he knew with a fear-driven mindset, I wish he had been clearer about the intentional aspects of those claims. Coates does say quite a bit about the silent consent of whites who might not like what they see happening to blacks but don’t challenge their racial privilege. But, without being clear about how structural racism is intentional, he leaves too many questions hanging in the air.None of these complaints diminish Coates’s achievement with this book. Read it, pass it on to a friend, think about it, and talk about it. It’s essential.

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  79. midcenturyme

    I’d heard of Ta-Nehisi Coates but couldn’t really place him in terms of his topics and/or fiction vs. nonfiction. But it was recommended by a friend as a way to begin to understand how systemic racism warps everything in our society in favor of white people, and what it means to raise children of color in a white supremacist culture. If anything I just wrote makes you feel uncomfortable, then this book is DEFINITELY for you. The author writes of his childhood and his college years, exploring the ways that this racism affected him in subtle and overt ways. Then he describes what it has meant to him to raise a son in the same culture, with more material comforts but the same systems of denial, white blindness, and open discrimination. But wait! There’s more! Today, he says, his son is growing up in a culture that has an added layer of “new racism,” in which white people want to avoid dealing deeply and long-lastingly with racism, to bring about its end. It is not a book without hope, but Coates is realistic about what it will take for his son–and all of us, of all colors–to experience real change.

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  80. Wiilliam S.

    Mr. Coates articulated his experience growing up in Baltimore precisely how I lived it since my birth in 1958 to my departure in 1978. In my attempt to describe the Baltimore experience the word challenge came to mind. I was challenged at home to keep myself safe from well intended parents, I was challenged in the neighborhood as Mr. Coates described, but also had to navigate white people also. I was challenged at school to be able to sit through information that had nothing to do with me. The only difference between Mr. Coates and myself is that I lived in proximity and attended schools along with Dreamers. I vividly remember the murder of MLK because I got into a fight with a white classmate because he said his daddy told him that MLK was nothing but a trouble maker and deserved what he got. Up until that point, he and I had been pretty good friends, but that was my wake up. To this very day, I carry the hyper vigilance that Baltimore ingrained in me as I have travelled this Earth. I am have served honorably in the military, well educated, financially solvent, married with grandchildren, but constantly aware that everything can change in the blink of an eye if the body snatchers come for me or one of my family members. Thank you, Mr. Coates for articulating life growing up Baltimore.

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  81. Larry L. Saxxon

    I’m a Black gay man, who is also the father of a 20 year old African American son.I was born in Princess Anne Maryland (in the 1950s); an era during which millions of Blacks were forced to subsist in the South as migrant workers and sharecroppers. Thus, the reason for my being born in Maryland. My mother was working in the fields that fed America as a nineteen year old, nine months pregnant.I am now sixty three years old, and with God’s help, will see my sixty fourth year this year.When I read this book, I cried. They were tears of sorry; tears of joy (for having someone bear witness to the universe in such eloquent pros), and I got angry.My anger has to do with the fact that, in many respects, things have gotten considerably worse for America’s African American citizens. We have yet to even broach the subject of “Reconciliation Conversations!”We have entered an era where  has displaced the narrative of civil public discourse relative to the pressing social issues of our times.Ta-Neshi Coats gave me now hope. Hope that in spite of all the horrific despair, some exquisitely beautiful but shattering honest counter narrative may yet find an opening in an otherwise tone and ethical deaf America.I pray that a critical mass will listen to his impassioned pros. His is not the narrative of hate but critical brutally honest social cometary through which we may all be liberated as equal sentient beings. I’ve been waiting for years to read and hear a voice like his. His seminal writings give me both a reason to continue and they surely provide an opening to love in spite of the hate that I and many of my kind have born witness to over all these many painful years. He is a light in the otherwise dark wilderness!

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  82. Rachel McElhany

    Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote Between the World and Me as a letter to his fifteen year-old son. He is writing to tell his son about his personal experience as a black man in America today. His son is starting to get to a point in his life where he is confused and hurt by the way black people are treated.Coates starts out by explaining that race is a social construct. He refers to black people as people with a black body and white people as people who need to believe they are white. I thought the way he laid it out was one of the best explanations of why humans are divided into races that I’ve heard. People who believe they are white divided people into different races because they wanted, needed to have power over other groups of people and skin color was the easiest way to make that division.Coates attended Howard University, which he refers to as the Mecca. He talks about his friend Prince Jones, who even though he was a Howard student and raised in an affluent home, could not escape being the victim of violence because of his black body. He talks about how black people know from an early age that they have to work twice as hard and expect half as much.This book isn’t meant lay a guilt trip on white people. I think it’s meant to give them insight into the black experience. In fact, people of all races can learn something from this book. I first read this book in print and then went back and listened to the whole thing on audiobook. I gained an even deeper understanding of what Coates is trying to impart on the second pass. Coates narrates the audiobook himself and the way he reads it makes it sound like poetry.It’s hard for me to put into words the impact this book had on me. And I’m a person who has read many books on race and consider myself fairly educated on the subject. I agree with Toni Morrison, Between the World and Me should be required reading for everyone.

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  83. Amazon Customer

    Oofta. I struggle to find the words to capture all that Coates was able to share. Nothing I can say could possibly give it justice. Between the World and Me was beautiful, real, and raw. The writing truly took my breath away. It was lyrical. It made me feel. It was a gut punch. It hurt. It was a short book (150ish pages), but it wasn’t a quick read. It was full of themes of fatherhood and the Black experience, & it’ll be added to my “required reading” list.Quotes that stuck with me:”I did not tell you that it would be okay, because i never believed it would be okay.””We did not design the streets. We do not fund them. We do not preserve them. But i was there, nevertheless, charged like all the others with the protection of my body.””I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free.””The birth of a better world is not ultimately up to you, though i know, each day, there are grown men and women who tell you otherwise. The world needs saving precisely because of the actions of these same men and women. I am not a cynic. I love you, and i love the world, and i love it more with every new inch i discover. But you are a black boy, and you must be responsible for your body in a way that other boys cannot know.”

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  84. C. David Curry

    This should be a must read for everyone. Ta-nehisi Coates pulls back the curtain on the mechanisms of racial injustice and lays bare the trappings set and continued for people of color. If you are white, this book will make you uncomfortable because as he points out, we are prone to say things have gotten better, but that perspective is from the perspective of the majority. He pushes you to see through his eyes and the eyes of his people in the most beautiful prose I have read in a very long time.I’m digesting this and I feel compelled to listen and learn from a people who have seen intolerance, injustice and inequality for far too long. After reading this book, I feel the same feeling I felt reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X: hopeful for a different way and better world. But with this book, I feel I see more clearly a way to understanding and a deeper empathy as well as a call to action to enact change. I can post on social media my outrage at social injustice but it goes nowhere and is forgotten when the next big thing hits. I feel moved to activism. To listen, for a long time, then see where I can help.Yes, you may feel uncomfortable reading this book, but that’s because you are getting a world view you most likely do not fully comprehend. Don’t let that dissuade you from reading this. Embrace it. It will help you grow. I’ve never met a writer like Ta-nehisi Coates, he has his own style and it is clear, eloquent, urgent and sadly lacking in a lot of the writing today. Years from now, I believe this book will be one of the classics and must reads. It makes me feel like I have accomplished too little in my life.

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  85. GrannyX7

    I saw Chris Hayes on MSNBC talk about this book and decided to try it. With everything going on these days, this book really is a must read because it makes you think about things, matters of ‘race’, understanding and our place on this earth. In explaining to his son, Coates gives us a lesson on the importance of knowing who you are. He mentions several of the recent killings of black people by white cops and white citizens, but not just to remind us, but to help us understand why it’s important that we care, that we think about the lives changed by these deaths and learn how to live in this world and protect our sons… and daughters. How do you prepare a child for a world that still doesn’t believe his life matters no matter how many marches and signs flash across your tv set? How do you make that young person feel like he matters so he will value his own life and the lives of others? While I already knew that ‘race’ is not an actual biological, provable genetic trait, when Coates said, “Race is the child of racism, not the father.”, I had to stop and really think about that. That’s what this book does, it makes you think. So, yes, I highly recommend this little book (especially for young people), a quick read that may, that SHOULD, change the way a lot of people look at ‘matters’ of race.

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  86. DKF

    I don’t mean that I didn’t love the book. I did. And hearing the words passed from a middle aged black man to his teenage son is insightful and beautiful (and hard). I really appreciated insight into the “Mecca” – his historically black university experience. Also timely since there is a lot in the news currently about VP nominee, Kamala Harris, being a Howard University alum, and how that experience shaped her.It was awful to hear the author tell his son about the black reality of needing to be “twice as good” in order to get half as much. I also appreciated the discussion on whiteness as a man-made construct.I went into this book with high expectations that it would be view-shattering based on the acclaim surrounding the book. II was talking to my friend and she mentioned that maybe these are more commonly known thoughts and perspectives than they were when the book was first published (2015). And this, in and of itself, is progress. Americans are becoming familiar with the struggle, the reality and inequity of being black in America, and are listening to voices other than our own. The (self-determined) white American is in need of this book, and the concepts and discussion within it. I think that a lot of us who are trying to understand and be informed on the undercurrents of racism on which this country was built, our oppressive culture and the effects it has on generations of Americans, and the way forward, will be familiar with some of the content already. However, we have not arrived and it is good to wrestle with these things as we seek advocacy and change.Another good friend tried to read this book and got stuck on the “angry” voice in which the writer writes. She said it was off putting and she couldn’t finish it. I agree that the author is angry and I also think we need to hear from angry people. I have read a lot about how we need to stop tone policing and why. If you google tone policing comic by Robert Hugs, it provides a simple lay out of why that is not a good idea and actually detrimental to change.One last thought, the book title: It seems it is more a book specifically on the role of the US and racism/oppression. Maybe it should have been entitled “Between America and me” instead of “Between the World and me.”

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  87. E. Sabina Brady

    I actually would give Coates’ book / open letter to his son a 4.5, but the option is not there. I found the book moving, superbly word crafted, gut wrenching and thought provoking about a social cultural, social and human reality in the U.S. that defines, perpetuates and is destroying us. The only reason I would slightly diminish my point award is in how Coates introduces a new, broader theme in the last few pages of the book — expanding our destruction of a whole (and wholly human constructed) social group in the U.S. to our destruction of planet earth. While I actually completely agree with Coates’ premise and logic, his sudden theme expansion seems to come out of left field, is undeveloped, and seemingly thrown in because Coates suddenly saw the connection and felt it important enough to raise. Doing this however risks realigning the focus of the book, or minimizing the connection and import of this newly expanded theme. Both undesirable outcomes. Better another book…or at least a chapter or a well articulated post-script. Outside of this small quibble, I will reread and reread this book for its power, its message, and its gut-wrenching and tragic grace about who we are and what we are doing to ourselves in America, and at the cost of our own humanity. Read this book, and then go back and read everything else Coates has written. He will intellectually and emotionally challenge you every step of the way, while you will immerse yourself in America’s history, economics, social development…..and absolutely wonderful (and getting ever better) word craft.

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  88. Joshua, Connecticut

    I am an avid reader of dystopian fiction. I have read hundreds of dystopian novels and taught dystopian lietrature. But, I was blind to one possibility, that the US might be a dystopia for people of color and especially for Black Americans. How unaware, ignorant, I was of this reality was revealed to me within a few pages of reading “Between the World and Me.”In dystopian stories, the government and its systems supress and oppress individual rights and have the freedom to destroy the minds and bodies of its citizens. Coates’ clarity of expression, his examples, and observations exploded in my brain the truth that the US is a dystopia for a significant number of its citizens.Coates changed the way I see the US, and now when I belong to a book club or when I teach dystopian literature, I am going to include “Between the World and Me.”

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  89. Stephen K

    Bluntly Candid, Tough and Brilliant — this is a hard, rough, and articulate look at life in America, by a black American, talking to his son — and to black and white Americans. The prose may distress white folks (I am) but it is a crystal clear alarm, played beautifully and honestly, by a man who wants everyone to know the truth as he sees it —- and it is hard to dispute his vision. Unapologetic, unforgiving, angry, and honest, Ta-Nehisi Coates wants us to know that growing up black in the U.S. Is qualitatively different from growing up white, no matter what argument someone might present. Even with the hard edge in his prose, there is poetry in his feelings and in his language — the writing is absolutely beautifully and enlightening.Between the world and Coates is an immense divide, one that may never be bridged. He writes poignantly to his son — and the reader — why the black male especially cannot live at peace in this country, though he hopes each future generation will be able to live more naturally with whites than he has. Being the race in power makes it hard to see how easily power corrupts even the most “innocent” of those of us who cross the street to avoid a black man, or who fail to see the systemic violence behind police beatings and over-reaction. Coates brings these matters, and others, into a harsh and painfully understandable light.Read this, reflect, and despite your own color — ask: What can we each do to raise our own children with a heart and a pair of eyes and a brain that become understanding and accepting tomorrow than they have been yesterday — and right now.

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  90. Richard DeWald

    I could not put it down.I thought it would probably take me weeks of bringing this book along with me for my solo meals out, which is how I do much of my reading. I’d get through a bit here, chew on it, bite off a bit more, etc.Instead, I read it from beginning to end in one sitting, staying up long past my bedtime because I prefered reading it to sleeping. I began the book as my accompaniment for a solo meal out, that meal ran into more than two hours, then I brought it home and continued to read it until I was surprised and saddened by the last page.This is at once a beautiful, touching, moving and profoundly insightful book. It answered, in one swiftly deft sweep of elegant prose, questions about racial identity in America that have puzzled me since I realized that I was “white” and there were other people, mostly distinguished by skin color and economic class, who were “colored.” I would guess I was around four or five years old when I first wondered why white and colored people were so angry with each other. It was 1964.This book is written, earnestly and sincerely, as a letter to his son. There is no artifice in this. It is a letter from a black father frightened for his black son, who wants him to understand his situation and be able to discern lies from truth as he deals with it. He almost too-dryly lays out the dangerous situations over which his son will have no control other than over his own actions and mental repose, explaining each with simple equations of self-interest, power and brutality.He then details his own struggle and evolution with all this, honestly unearthing his own now-abandoned limited views of the world, some left on the streets of Paris and some left on the boulevards of a now-gentrifying Harlem, now strolled by white women with strollers, the very neighborhood in which I live today and read this remarkable book.He describes white people as “people who believe themselves to be ‘white.'” This distinction is the central revelation of this book for me as a man of caucasian and European descent. I was primed and readied for this view because I’ve never felt my “white” identity was something real. I’m a little Northern European on my mother’s side, a little Southern European on my father’s.I’ve had my DNA sequenced, so I know that my father’s ancestors emigrated from Northern Africa to Southern Europe fifty-thousand years ago, about twenty-thousand years before my mother’s ancestors came out of the Caucus mountains and moved to Northern Europe. I have more in common genetically with people in the Basque region of Spain than any other currently identifiable region, but my father’s family regards it’s European roots as being in Alsace, we have record of a DeWald as a tax collector in the region in the eleventh century.However, the name DeWald has it’s richest history in South Africa, at least for the last couple of centuries, and in German, it means “of the woods.”So, WTF am I? A German/English/Basque/Alsatian/Afrikaner? I’m all those things, but according to the US culture, I’m “white” along with my friends whose ancestors followed an entirely different path. We share a skin color and assumedly “not one drop” of the adulterating “colored” blood. That’s what makes us white, and it is the only thing that makes us white. We believe we are and so does everyone around us.This is the point that Mr Coates makes so eloquently. “White” isn’t a race, as such, it’s an identity, and the degree to which one possesses the identity (in their view and in the view of others) determines which side of the racial dividing (white vs. non-white) line one lives in the United States. The United States has, in Mr. Coates view, a heritage of enslavement, a history of violent oppression, and a continuing practice of violating non-white personhood. He points out, coldly and rationally, that non-white people, today, still lack boundaries and protections against institutional and state-sanctioned forms of systemic violence.White people, or as Mr. Coates reminds us, “people who believe themselves to be white” take inviolable boundaries and protections against these kinds of institutional and state-sanctioned manifestations of systemic violence for granted. This is what really makes them white.I live in Harlem. It would shock me to the very core of my being if a NYPD officer stopped and frisked me for drugs, weapons or contraband. It would be a turning point in my life, a story I would tell for years, something I would pursue remediation for to the full extent possible, with no fear of further persecution because I chose to do so.I walk by black men being stopped and frisked by NYPD on these same Harlem streets so routinely that I hardly take notice of it.There’s nothing rhetorical about that. It’s a fact of my own life.If I had a black son, I would require him to read this book. Today.

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  91. Monica M Manns

    Reading the book and then reading the reviews left me as an African American Female frustrated and disheartened. I read this book and was astounded with the way he put to words the feelings of my past and present. As a Black Mother raising both a Boy and Girl child in this America little that he spoke about is untrue or unfounded. It may not make individuals reading the book feel “good” but it is an honest assessment of our American culture. It serves as an earnest assessment of one Black mans conceptualization of raising a Black child in our America. The reviewers that expressed issue with his writing not moving racial conversation forward have seemingly missed the boat. He wasn’t trying move the conversation forward but recognizes that our lack of historical and current knowledge limits greater society capacity to have the initial discussion. Instead I believe he writes in the ilk of James Baldwin and William Faulkner. Coates has chose to write a raw assessment not an acknowledgment nor judgement but an earnest assessment of our current reality. By doing so he holds readers hostage because he gives verbiage to experiences we wish forgotten or hope continue to go unacknowledged by our America. Those not of this story line who have chosen to write poor reviews of the book understand that he didn’t write for you and your take on our experience; he wrote it for the little boy who watched the Micheal Brown and Trayvon Martin verdict alongside his son. Don’t make the mistake of believing that his words are not truthful and his thoughts unheralded by much of the darker America.

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  92. marina Pennington

    This book is not only enlightening it’s engrossing pulling away all the misconceptions so many have come to rely on as fact which dared not dig into the core unresolved American issues that America now is asking itself. Coates provides factual data of the origins, evolution, outcome and consequences to the American society. Coates methodology entices you like a cat with a ball of yarn and like the cat the more you more you read the more that figurative yarn unravels exposing that which has long been denied, ignored and shelved into America’s attic to be forgotten. Coates leads us to the chest as the yarn ends leaving the reader to open it to enlightenment and a fuller understanding of the misconceptions, how they occurred, why and the systems that continues to be encased and hardened in place but he leaves you with an informed challenge to truly resolve issues once thought to be contractible when all the long it actually always has been obviously right there before our eyes if we only open our eyes to the truths you’ll discover reading his book.

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  93. Paul Janes-brown

    Ta-Nehisi Coates has said things to his son, that every son wishes his father could say. The intimacy of his perceptions are a privilege to hear. You can hear him saying this as one reads. Coates has a voice that comes through in every word. There are some truly outrageous thoughts which push the boundaries. However, when placed within the context of his thesis, his disdain for even the heroes of 9-11 is understandable. Because of his profound historical analysis, he knew that “ground zero” was also the place where the New York slave trade was plied. He says, “Bin Laden was not the first man to bring terror to that section of the city.”This is all set against the death of Prince Jones, an acquaintance of Coates from Howard University, or as he refers to it, The Mecca, who was killed by a police officer for the crime of being black. The true irony of this, is that the officer who killed Jones, was Black. Coates never names this officer. He says, “The officer who killed Prince Jones, like all the officers who regard us so warily, was the sword of the American citizenry. I would never consider any American citizen pure.”His analysis doesn’t allow for forgiveness, it suggests extreme wariness. He tells his son, “But you are human and you will make mistakes. You will misjudge. You will yell. You will drink too much. You will hang out with people you shouldn’t. Not all of us can always be Jackie Robinson— not even Jackie Robinson was always Jackie Robinson. But the price of error is higher for you than it is for your countrymen, and so that America might justify itself, the story of a black body’s destruction must always begin with his or her error, real or imagined— with Eric Garner’s anger, with Trayvon Martin’s mythical words (“ You are gonna die tonight”), with Sean Bell’s mistake of running with the wrong crowd, with me standing too close to the small-eyed boy pulling out.”There highlights throughout this brilliantly written work. There’s a good reason why it is a best seller and it should be read by every American and seriously discussed.Coates, Ta-Nehisi (2015-07-14). Between the World and Me (pp. 95-96). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.Coates, Ta-Nehisi (2015-07-14). Between the World and Me (p. 86). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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  94. Kenya

    This was read is a must. I don’t care what race you are, please read this book. This book touched on race and the author’s personal experience as a Black man in America. This book made me think and also understand that Black people are not a monolith and that we all have different experiences in the U.S. I could go on and on for days about this book personally but I’ll save the keystrokes and just encourage anyone consideing whether or not if they want to read the book just to go ahead and buy it. That is all.

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  95. John P. Jones III

    Way back at the beginning of time, that is, the 1960’s, Richard Wright and James Baldwin were obligatory reading for me, and I have read much of their work. I still recall a black woman in Atlanta damning me with faint praise: “I think you are a moderate liberal.” Likewise, the lyrics of an old Phil Ochs song, “Love me, I am a liberal” have rolled around in my head: “…and I knew all the old union hymns.” Nowadays, I suppose, Wright and Baldwin ARE “the old union hymns.” America has made so much progress in race relations since the “Amos and Andy Show” was the only authorized black presence on TV, and Jackie Robinson proved that a black man could play in professional sports. Some blacks are now “truffled” in my neighborhood. There is a Black Caucus in Congress, and then there is the matter of the President… Progress.But there is also the stagnation, and backlash. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book concerns the latter. His first name is derived from an old Egyptian word for Nubia, the area to the south of them that was inhabited by blacks. The New York Times review of this book underscored the similarities, and delineated the differences between this work and Baldwin’s 

    The Fire Next Time

    . Both take the structure of an older black man telling a much younger black man the (racial) “facts of life” in America. In Baldwin’s case, it was to his nephew, in Coates, it is to his son.Coates grew up “on the wrong side of the tracks” in Baltimore. At least, that is what it was called in Baldwin’s time. Perhaps it still is. A tough neighborhood. A war zone, literal, and of sorts. A lot of psychic energy is spent just trying to stay alive… of watching for what is out of place on the “trail” to school, and does that bring danger? Coats quantifies this, in terms of brain time, at 33%. Cuts down on your time for writing the next “killer app.” Another quantification: “At the onset of the Civil War, our stolen bodies were worth four billion dollars, more than all of American industry, all of American railroads, workshops, and factories combine, and the prime product rendered by our stolen bodies – cotton – was America’s prime export. The richest men in America lived in the Mississippi River Valley, and they made their riches off our stolen bodies.” He provides no basis for the four billion figure… and for those who would dispute it, is it double or half? I recently read and reviewed 

    Ghosts Along The Mississippi: The Magic of the Old Houses of Louisiana, New Revised Edition

    , with the subtitle that includes “magic”. There was nothing magically about it. Far more than an abstract four billion, those “ghosts” of old mansions quantify what was stolen.His is a staccato writing style; the “takeaways” of a 1000 page book. Concerning schools, quotes worthy of Paul Goodman: “I was a curious boy, but the schools were not concerned with curiosity. They were concerned with compliance…Schools did not reveal truths, they concealed them.” He questions the meek acceptance and embrace of the “tear gas” of passive resistance. He admires Malcom X. Coates names 10-15 black men who have been killed by the police, the police that he says are so instrumental in fulfilling America’s will on race relations. Coates went to the black “Mecca,” Howard University, in Washington, DC, and was dazzled by the variety that is encompassed by that word: “blackness.” He finds love on more than one occasion.Prince Jones, a fellow classmate of his at Howard was murdered by the police. He described this killing in detail, and has a heart-breaking visit to his mother, a medical doctor, who had worked her way up from scrubbing white people’s floors in Louisiana. His eulogy for Jones is haunting and beautiful. Accountability? There never is any. “And no one would be brought to account for this destruction, because my death would not be the fault of any human but the fault of some unfortunate but immutable fact of ‘race,’ imposed upon an innocent country by the inscrutable judgment of invisible gods. The earthquake cannot be subpoenaed. They typhoon will not bend under indictment. They sent the killer of Prince Jones back to his work, because he was not a killer at all. He was a force on nature, the helpless agent of our world’s physical laws.” Scathing, as good as Baldwin ever wrote.Coates seminal work is an update on the much “progress” that has NOT been made. Normally I would give it my special rating for an exceptional work, 6-stars. However, I did have some problems with it. He goes to France, his first trip abroad, and is enthralled… I’ve been there… figuring the 6eme arrondissement is the “center of the universe.” However, he never mentions an essential word for understanding France, “les banlieues,” literally, the suburbs, with such a different connotation than in America. A fellow reviewer has mentioned that he has become more critical after his first visit. And then I would also be critical of his use of the term “Dreamer,” of which there are many, for sure, but are not a monolithic block that seems to mean “non-black.” And he never develops the implications of the fact that the cop who killed Prince Jones was black also. Like “les banlieues,” “Tom,” of an avuncular nature, does not appear in his work either. Still, overall, a very important work, for America today, and for those still singing those “old union hymns.” 5-stars.

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  96. Paul R.

    I’m white, male, and have very little understanding or appreciation for black culture. My parents and siblings all watched Roots when I was about 8 years old. I encountered some black sailors when I was in the U.S. Navy – in fact, I had a roommate for six months or so that was a black male, but we maybe spoke a hundred words during that time. This book came recommended by a quasi-stranger, not for it’s content but for its structure: letters from a father to a son. I’d mentioned that I was interested in writing that sort of book, and this was a resulting recommendation. I read a few reviews before buying it. Not the sort of book I’d otherwise pick up. After ordering it, I heard the author on NPR – without knowing it was the author of the book, mind you – and I thought “wow, this guy is really interesting, provocative, well-spoken, intellectually sound, and speaks from a world that I can only see from afar.” So when the show host said his name, I knew I had to pick up the book and read it soon. I had that opportunity within days, on a flight to Atlanta, my first visit there in maybe fifteen years. I got through about 110 pages on the flight and it was perfect timing. Atlanta is a sea of black compared to most everywhere I’ve lived. Instantly, I could try and appreciate my surroundings in way that I’d never been able to before. Did I feel “white guilt”? Sure. I do. I’ve seen racism my whole life, especially toward black. This book, however, did much more than rekindle strong feelings of being a winner of Powerball proportions in the life lottery. It challenged me so fundamentally and starkly in a way that I have never been challenged, reading a book, in my life. At times I felt compelled to put the book down, that it was just conjuring up too much weight of history that I wanted to put back out of sight. But I kept going. Finishing it, I felt, like apparently many others do, that this should be required reading for every American. Even those outside of the USA will benefit from it, as it will certainly illuminate the tension and schizophrenia and contradictions and rewritten history of our country. I hope Mr. Coates continues writing until he draws his final breath.

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  97. WestNDNBeauty

    Profound, that is the word that comes to mind after reading Coates’ Between the World and Me. The perspective, language, and insight he provided allowed me to better master my own emotions as a parent of a black boy. I am thankful to find I am already employing the softness, compassion, and self-efficacy needed to raise a conscious young black man in this America. At times, I felt hopeless and embarrassingly apathetic to the ‘senseless’ loss of sacred life but those emotions gave way to a new awareness of how much ‘sense’ the taking of black life is in an America that never valued it as equal to those held as valuable.Coates called me out as I too always remarked about ‘black on black crime’ in an attempt to comfort myself at the alarming rate at which black bodies were being decimated by ‘the law’. However, Coates provided education and perspective on why this tragedy befalls the black community.I know this book will never leave me, his words will never leave me. I am grateful he invited me, all of us to the conversation that is necessary as parents to black children. “A mountain is not a mountain unless there is something below.” Thank you Mr. Coates.

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  98. R. Clay

    I read this book in a single sitting on my travel today from Washington, DC to Stockholm. Coates gives vibrant life to the deep dark thoughts and fears of black men in America. I can particularly relate to his experience as someone that grew up during the same period (Generation X) and in the same types of environments. As an adult I have often asked my parents, in the same tone the Coates takes: “Why is it on me to ‘do twice as well’? What exactly is it that I have to prove?”In many ways this book points the way forward. It’s time for black people to stop trying to change other people’s minds about us. This is a liberating thought. The truth is that no matter how much we try to embody “The Dream” people like Dylan Roof will always be out there as a threat to our bodies. I think its time to drop the illusions of working towards some grand dream and focus on living the best life we can now.I agree with other reviewers that at some points the book rambles on a bit. But I also give him latitude to do so, because I would likely do the same if I were giving instructions to my son, instructions that would be critical to his path ahead. When you read “Between The World And Me” keep in mind who Coates’ audience is (his son) and how much emotion must be infused in such precious instructions.Overall, “Between The World And Me”, puts America under the microscope from a modern black man’s perspective. And the picture is not nice. In truth, the picture is not much better than it was 50,75,150 years ago.

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  99. Edward R. Dick

    I thank Ta-Nehisi Coates for telling me his story and worldview. It helps me to stand in his shoes. He is a very good writer.The group I review books with, The Foundation for Contemporary Theology” are taking what he says seriously and are in theprocess of learnign more from other books and sources. The story of Ta-Nehisi’s experience with life and people is quite different from mine, because my body isn’t black, but so-called-“white” and we never got to play, study, or work together. Coming from Oklahoma, I am used to being with the people we pushed into Oklahoma against their will. I went to school with them, I played with them, and some were my boss when I was working–we were friends and neighbors.It wasn’t until I was in Law School that I was in the same class with a man whose body was black (he had to sit in a room open to the lecture hall), so I never got to talk to him or hear what he had to say. The next year, a young black girl joined our classes (she had to sit on the back row of the lecture hallThe next year, it was a black girl that joined the classes I was in ( she had to sit on the back row of the lecture hall under a sign that said: “Designated Area”. I never got to know or speak to her either.So I missed a lot, and had no idea how hard it was for them or how much dedication to their quest for knowledge they had to muster to complete their study and become members of the Oklahoma Bar Association.So, no wonder I had no idea of how they saw me or of value of their skills.Segregation is the monster that has robbed me of the opportunity to get to know the American’s with black bodies. But I did get to know a lot of people with black bodies during my work in several countries in West Africa who meant and still mean a lot to me.

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