The Hopes and Fears that stand Between the World and Ta-Nehisi Coates

Title: Between The World And Me

Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Genre: Memoir

Publisher: The Text Publishing Company

Date of publication: 2015

Number of pages: 152

Ta-Nehisi Coates starts off his book Between the World and Me with the word “son.” Right off the bat this tells us who this story is addressed to, but at the same time, it seems as though the reader is his son, sitting down to read a letter or be told a story by his father. This helps capture the audience and pull them into the story. Coates is known for his correspondence with the Atlantic and the author of another memoir called The Beautiful Struggle. He won the National Magazine Award, The Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism, and the George Pol Award for his cover story in the Atlantic.

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s effort at addressing questions of what it is like to have a black body and “find a way to live within it.” answering them in letter form for his young son. He describes his awareness of his place in the world through a collection of experiences from Howard University, The Civil War, the South Side of Chicago, Paris, his childhood home in Baltimore, and the houses of families who had their child’s lives taken from them. (Between the World and Me summary)

This is one book where the reader will not have any idea of what they are getting themselves into. The way that this story is written is so captivating and eye-opening to the point where it feels as though Coates is addressing the reader as his son. It is captivating because of how he pulls you into each story from his life and how he relates history to the present day. “Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains—whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains. You must struggle to remember this past in all its nuance, error, and humanity.” (Coates, p.70). It is eye-opening because of how he goes in-depth about what goes on in the streets of his Baltimore home, his fear of not knowing his place in the world, fear of not owning his own body. “But you are a black boy, and you must be responsible for your body in a way that other boys cannot know. Indeed, you must be responsible for the worst actions of other black bodies, which, somehow, will always be assigned to you.” (Coates, p.71). There are some relief moments where Coates talks about “The Mecca” of Howard University and how he spent most of his time in the library reading about Malcolm X and his speeches, and how he met his son’s mother. There are no chapters in this book, which may seem odd and confusing to the reader, but once you start reading, you can’t stop. The story is broken up into three parts, which seems as though each part signifies a different part of his life. This book is a must-read.

            As I mentioned, this book is captivating in many ways and once it is opened, it is very hard to close, and hard to close without thinking and or processing the information and thinking “Wow!” Towards the bottom of the book cover, Toni Morrison says, ‘This is required reading,’ and I agree. This book is extremely inciteful, eye-opening, and powerful in many ways. A definite must-read.

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