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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.

Amazon.com Review

Readers of his work in The Atlantic and elsewhere know Ta-Nehisi Coates for his thoughtful and influential writing on race in America. Written as a series of letters to his teenaged son, his new memoir, Between the World and Me, walks us through the course of his life, from the tough neighborhoods of Baltimore in his youth, to Howard University—which Coates dubs “The Mecca” for its revelatory community of black students and teachers—to the broader Meccas of New York and Paris. Coates describes his observations and the evolution of his thinking on race, from Malcolm X to his conclusion that race itself is a fabrication, elemental to the concept of American (white) exceptionalism. Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, and South Carolina are not bumps on the road of progress and harmony, but the results of a systemized, ubiquitous threat to “black bodies” in the form of slavery, police brutality, and mass incarceration. Coates is direct and, as usual, uncommonly insightful and original. There are no wasted words. This is a powerful and exceptional book.--Jon Foro

From School Library Journal

In a series of essays, written as a letter to his son, Coates confronts the notion of race in America and how it has shaped American history, many times at the cost of black bodies and lives. Thoughtfully exploring personal and historical events, from his time at Howard University to the Civil War, the author poignantly asks and attempts to answer difficult questions that plague modern society. In this short memoir, the Atlantic writer explains that the tragic examples of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and those killed in South Carolina are the results of a systematically constructed and maintained assault to black people—a structure that includes slavery, mass incarceration, and police brutality as part of its foundation. From his passionate and deliberate breakdown of the concept of race itself to the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, Coates powerfully sums up the terrible history of the subjugation of black people in the United States. A timely work, this title will resonate with all teens—those who have experienced racism as well as those who have followed the recent news coverage on violence against people of color. Pair with Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely''s All American Boys (S. & S., 2015) for a lively discussion on racism in America. VERDICT This stunning, National Book Award-winning memoir should be required reading for high school students and adults alike.—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

Review

“I’ve been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates. The language of Between the World and Me, like Coates’s journey, is visceral, eloquent, and beautifully redemptive. And its examination of the hazards and hopes of black male life is as profound as it is revelatory. This is required reading.” —Toni Morrison

“Powerful and passionate . . . profoundly moving . . . a searing meditation on what it means to be black in America today.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Really powerful and emotional.” —John Legend, The Wall Street Journal

“Extraordinary . . . [Coates] writes an impassioned letter to his teenage son—a letter both loving and full of a parent’s dread—counseling him on the history of American violence against the black body, the young African-American’s extreme vulnerability to wrongful arrest, police violence, and disproportionate incarceration.” —David Remnick, The New Yorker

“Brilliant . . . a riveting meditation on the state of race in America . . . [Coates] is firing on all cylinders, and it is something to behold: a mature writer entirely consumed by a momentous subject and working at the extreme of his considerable powers at the very moment national events most conform to his vision.” The Washington Post

“An eloquent blend of history, reportage, and memoir written in the tradition of James Baldwin with echoes of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man . . . It is less a typical memoir of a particular time and place than an autobiography of the black body in America. . . . Coates writes with tenderness, especially of his wife, child, and extended family, and with frankness. . . . Coates’s success, in this book and elsewhere, is due to his lucidity and innate dignity, his respect for himself and for others. He refuses to preach or talk down to white readers or to plead for acceptance: He never wonders why we just can’t all get along. He knows government policies make getting along near impossible.” The Boston Globe

“For someone who proudly calls himself an atheist, Coates gives us a whole lot of ‘Can I get an amen?’ in this slim and essential volume of familial joy and rigorous struggle. . . . [He] has become the most sought-after public intellectual on the issue of race in America, with good reason. Between the World and Me . . . is at once a magnification and a distillation of our existence as black people in a country we were not meant to survive. It is a straight tribute to our strength, endurance and grace. . . . [Coates] speaks resolutely and vividly to all of black America.” Los Angeles Times

“A crucial book during this moment of generational awakening.” The New Yorker

“A work that’s both titanic and timely, Between the World and Me is the latest essential reading in America’s social canon.” Entertainment Weekly

“Coates delivers a beautiful lyrical call for consciousness in the face of racial discrimination in America. . . . Between the World and Me is in the same mode of The Fire Next Time; it is a book designed to wake you up. . . . An exhortation against blindness.” The Guardian

“Coates has crafted a deeply moving and poignant letter to his own son. . . . [His] book is a compelling mix of history, analysis and memoir. Between the World and Me is a much-needed artifact to document the times we are living in [from] one of the leading public intellectuals of our generation. . . . The experience of having a sage elder speak directly to you in such lyrical, gorgeous prose—language bursting with the revelatory thought and love of black life—is a beautiful thing.” The Root

“Rife with love, sadness, anger and struggle, Between the World and Me charts a path through the American gauntlet for both the black child who will inevitably walk the world alone and for the black parent who must let that child walk away.” Newsday

“Poignant, revelatory and exceedingly wise, Between the World and Me is an essential clarion call to our collective conscience. We ignore it at our own peril.” San Francisco Chronicle

“Masterfully written . . . powerful storytelling.” New York Post

“One of the most riveting and heartfelt books to appear in some time . . . The book achieves a level of clarity and eloquence reminiscent of Ralph Ellison’s classic Invisible Man. . . . The perspective [Coates] brings to American life is one that no responsible citizen or serious scholar can safely ignore.” Foreign Affairs

“Urgent, lyrical, and devastating in its precision, Coates has penned a new classic of our time.” Vogue

“Powerful.” The Economist

“A work of rare beauty and revelatory honesty . . . Between the World and Me is a love letter written in a moral emergency, one that Coates exposes with the precision of an autopsy and the force of an exorcism. . . . Coates is frequently lauded as one of America’s most important writers on the subject of race today, but this in fact undersells him: Coates is one of America’s most important writers on the subject of America today. . . . [He’s] a polymath whose breadth of knowledge on matters ranging from literature to pop culture to French philosophy to the Civil War bleeds through every page of his book, distilled into profound moments of discovery, immensely erudite but never showy.” Slate

“The most important book I’ve read in years . . . an illuminating, edifying, educational, inspiring experience.” —Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

“It’s an indescribably enlightening, enraging, important document about being black in America today. Coates is perhaps the best we have, and this book is perhaps the best he’s ever been.” Deadspin

“Vital reading at this moment in America.” U.S. News & World Report

“[Coates] has crafted a highly provocative, thoughtfully presented, and beautifully written narrative. . . . Much of what Coates writes may be difficult for a majority of Americans to process, but that’s the incisive wisdom of it. Read it, think about it, take a deep breath and read it again. The spirit of James Baldwin lives within its pages.” The Christian Science Monitor

“Part memoir, part diary, and wholly necessary, it is precisely the document this country needs right now.” New Republic

“A moving testament to what it means to be black and an American in our troubled age . . . Between the World and Me feels of-the-moment, but like James Baldwin’s celebrated 1963 treatise The Fire Next Time, it stands to become a classic on the subject of race in America.” The Seattle Times

“Riveting . . . Coates delivers a fiery soliloquy dissecting the tradition of the erasure of African-Americans beginning with the deeply personal.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[ Between the World and Me] is not a Pollyanna, coming-of-age memoir about how idyllic life was growing up in America. It is raw. It is searing. . . . [It’s] a book that should be read and shared by everyone, as it is a story that painfully and honestly explores the age-old question of what it means to grow up black and male in America.” The Baltimore Sun

“A searing indictment of America’s legacy of violence, institutional and otherwise, against blacks.” Chicago Tribune

“I know that this book is addressed to the author’s son, and by obvious analogy to all boys and young men of color as they pass, inexorably, into harm’s way. I hope that I will be forgiven, then, for feeling that Ta-Nehisi Coates was speaking to me, too, one father to another, teaching me that real courage is the courage to be vulnerable, to admit having fallen short of the mark, to stay open-hearted and curious in the face of hate and lies, to remain skeptical when there is so much comfort in easy belief, to acknowledge the limits of our power to protect our children from harm and, hardest of all, to see how the burden of our need to protect becomes a burden on them, one that we must, sooner or later, have the wisdom and the awful courage to surrender.” —Michael Chabon

“Ta-Nehisi Coates is the James Baldwin of our era, and this is his cri de coeur. A brilliant thinker at the top of his powers, he has distilled four hundred years of history and his own anguish and wisdom into a prayer for his beloved son and an invocation to the conscience of his country. Between the World and Me is an instant classic and a gift to us all.” —Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns

About the Author

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic. His book Between the World and Me won the National Book Award in 2015. Coates is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. He lives in New York City with his wife and son.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

I.

. . . we sprawl in gray chains in a place full of winters when what we want is the sun

Amira Baraka, “Ka Ba”

Son,

Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body. The host was broadcasting from Washington, D.C., and I was seated in a remote studio on the far west side of Manhattan. A satellite closed the miles between us, but no machinery could close the gap between her world and the world for which I had been summoned to speak. When the host asked me about my body, her face faded from the screen, and was replaced by a scroll of words, written by me earlier that week.

The host read these words for the audience, and when she finished she turned to the subject of my body, although she did not mention it specifically. But by now I am accustomed to intelligent people asking about the condition of my body without realizing the nature of their request. Specifically, the host wished to know why I felt that white America’s progress, or rather the progress of those Americans who believe that they are white, was built on looting and violence. Hearing this, I felt an old and indistinct sadness well up in me. The answer to this question is the rec­ord of the believers themselves. The answer is American history.

There is nothing extreme in this statement. Americans deify democracy in a way that allows for a dim awareness that they have, from time to time, stood in defiance of their God. But democracy is a forgiving God and America’s heresies—­torture, theft, enslavement—­are so common among individuals and nations that none can declare themselves immune. In fact, Americans, in a real sense, have never betrayed their God. When Abraham Lincoln declared, in 1863, that the battle of Gettysburg must ensure “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” he was not merely being aspirational; at the onset of the Civil War, the United States of America had one of the highest rates of suffrage in the world. The question is not whether Lincoln truly meant “government of the people” but what our country has, throughout its history, taken the political term “people” to actually mean. In 1863 it did not mean your mother or your grandmother, and it did not mean you and me. Thus America’s problem is not its betrayal of “government of the people,” but the means by which “the people” acquired their names.

This leads us to another equally important ideal, one that Americans implicitly accept but to which they make no conscious claim. Americans believe in the reality of “race” as a defined, indubitable feature of the natural world. Racism—­the need to ascribe bone-­deep features to people and then humiliate, reduce, and destroy them—­inevitably follows from this inalterable condition. In this way, racism is rendered as the innocent daughter of Mother Nature, and one is left to deplore the Middle Passage or the Trail of Tears the way one deplores an earthquake, a tornado, or any other phenomenon that can be cast as beyond the handiwork of men.

But race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming “the people” has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy. Difference in hue and hair is old. But the belief in the preeminence of hue and hair, the notion that these factors can correctly organize a society and that they signify deeper attributes, which are indelible—­this is the new idea at the heart of this new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white.

These new people are, like us, a modern invention. But unlike us, their new name has no real meaning divorced from the machinery of criminal power. The new people were something else before they were white—­Catholic, Corsican, Welsh, Mennonite, Jewish—­and if all our national hopes have any fulfillment, then they will have to be something else again. Perhaps they will truly become American and create a nobler basis for their myths. I cannot call it. As for now, it must be said that the process of washing the disparate tribes white, the elevation of the belief in being white, was not achieved through wine tastings and ice cream socials, but rather through the pillaging of life, liberty, labor, and land; through the flaying of backs; the chaining of limbs; the strangling of dissidents; the destruction of families; the rape of mothers; the sale of children; and various other acts meant, first and foremost, to deny you and me the right to secure and govern our own bodies.

The new people are not original in this. Perhaps there has been, at some point in history, some great power whose elevation was exempt from the violent exploitation of other human bodies. If there has been, I have yet to discover it. But this banality of violence can never excuse America, because America makes no claim to the banal. America believes itself exceptional, the greatest and noblest nation ever to exist, a lone champion standing between the white city of democracy and the terrorists, despots, barbarians, and other enemies of civilization. One cannot, at once, claim to be superhuman and then plead mortal error. I propose to take our countrymen’s claims of American exceptionalism seriously, which is to say I propose subjecting our country to an exceptional moral standard. This is difficult because there exists, all around us, an apparatus urging us to accept American innocence at face value and not to inquire too much. And it is so easy to look away, to live with the fruits of our history and to ignore the great evil done in all of our names. But you and I have never truly had that luxury. I think you know.

I write you in your fifteenth year. I am writing you because this was the year you saw Eric Garner choked to death for selling cigarettes; because you know now that Renisha McBride was shot for seeking help, that John Crawford was shot down for browsing in a department store. And you have seen men in uniform drive by and murder Tamir Rice, a twelve-­year-­old child whom they were oath-­bound to protect. And you have seen men in the same uniforms pummel Marlene Pinnock, someone’s grandmother, on the side of a road. And you know now, if you did not before, that the police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body. It does not matter if the destruction is the result of an unfortunate overreaction. It does not matter if it originates in a misunderstanding. It does not matter if the destruction springs from a foolish policy. Sell cigarettes without the proper authority and your body can be destroyed. Resent the people trying to entrap your body and it can be destroyed. Turn into a dark stairwell and your body can be destroyed. The destroyers will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions. And destruction is merely the superlative form of a dominion whose prerogatives include friskings, detainings, beatings, and humiliations. All of this is common to black people. And all of this is old for black people. No one is held responsible.

There is nothing uniquely evil in these destroyers or even in this moment. The destroyers are merely men enforcing the whims of our country, correctly interpreting its heritage and legacy. It is hard to face this. But 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.

That Sunday, with that host, on that news show, I tried to explain this as best I could within the time allotted. But at the end of the segment, the host flashed a widely shared picture of an eleven-­year-­old black boy tearfully hugging a white police officer. Then she asked me about “hope.” And I knew then that I had failed. And I remembered that I had expected to fail. And I wondered again at the indistinct sadness welling up in me. Why exactly was I sad? I came out of the studio and walked for a while. It was a calm December day. Families, believing themselves white, were out on the streets. Infants, raised to be white, were bundled in strollers. And I was sad for these people, much as I was sad for the host and sad for all the people out there watching and reveling in a specious hope. I realized then why I was sad. When the journalist asked me about my body, it was like she was asking me to awaken her from the most gorgeous dream. I have seen that dream all my life. It is perfect houses with nice lawns. It is Memorial Day cookouts, block associations, and driveways. The Dream is treehouses and the Cub Scouts. The Dream smells like peppermint but tastes like strawberry shortcake. And for so long I have wanted to escape into the Dream, to fold my country over my head like a blanket. But this has never been an option because the Dream rests on our backs, the bedding made from our bodies. And knowing this, knowing that the Dream persists by warring with the known world, I was sad for the host, I was sad for all those families, I was sad for my country, but above all, in that moment, I was sad for you.

That was the week you learned that the killers of Michael Brown would go free. The men who had left his body in the street like some awesome declaration of their inviolable power would never be punished. It was not my expectation that anyone would ever be punished. But you were young and still believed. You stayed up till 11 p.m. that night, waiting for the announcement of an indictment, and when instead it was announced that there was none you said, “I’ve got to go,” and you went into your room, and I heard you crying. I came in five minutes after, and I didn’t hug you, and I didn’t comfort you, because I thought it would be wrong to comfort you. I did not tell you that it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay. What I told you is what your grandparents tried to tell me: that this is your country, that this is your world, that this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it. I tell you now that the question of how one should live within a black body, within a country lost in the Dream, is the question of my life, and the pursuit of this question, I have found, ultimately answers itself.

This must seem strange to you. We live in a “goal-­oriented” era. Our media vocabulary is full of hot takes, big ideas, and grand theories of everything. But some time ago I rejected magic in all its forms. This rejection was a gift from your grandparents, who never tried to console me with ideas of an afterlife and were skeptical of preordained American glory. In accepting both the chaos of history and the fact of my total end, I was freed to truly consider how I wished to live—­specifically, how do I live free in this black body? It is a profound question because America understands itself as God’s handiwork, but the black body is the clearest evidence that America is the work of men. I have asked the question through my reading and writings, through the music of my youth, through arguments with your grandfather, with your mother, your aunt Janai, your uncle Ben. I have searched for answers in nationalist myth, in classrooms, out on the streets, and on other continents. The question is unanswerable, which is not to say futile. The greatest reward of this constant interrogation, of confrontation with the brutality of my country, is that it has freed me from ghosts and girded me against the sheer terror of disembodiment.

And I am afraid. I feel the fear most acutely whenever you leave me. But I was afraid long before you, and in this I was unoriginal. When I was your age the only people I knew were black, and all of them were powerfully, adamantly, dangerously afraid. I had seen this fear all my young life, though I had not always recognized it as such.

It was always right in front of me. The fear was there in the extravagant boys of my neighborhood, in their large rings and medallions, their big puffy coats and full-­length fur-­collared leathers, which was their armor against their world. They would stand on the corner of Gwynn Oak and Liberty, or Cold Spring and Park Heights, or outside Mondawmin Mall, with their hands dipped in Russell sweats. I think back on those boys now and all I see is fear, and all I see is them girding themselves against the ghosts of the bad old days when the Mississippi mob gathered ’round their grandfathers so that the branches of the black body might be torched, then cut away. The fear lived on in their practiced bop, their slouching denim, their big T‑shirts, the calculated angle of their baseball caps, a catalog of behaviors and garments enlisted to inspire the belief that these boys were in firm possession of everything they desired.

I saw it in their customs of war. I was no older than five, sitting out on the front steps of my home on Woodbrook Avenue, watching two shirtless boys circle each other close and buck shoulders. From then on, I knew that there was a ritual to a street fight, bylaws and codes that, in their very need, attested to all the vulnerability of the black teenage bodies.

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. “Keep my name out your mouth,” they would say. I would watch them after school, how they squared off like boxers, vas­elined up, earrings off, Reeboks on, and leaped at each other.

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Top reviews from the United States

Paul R.
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Most challenging book I''ve ever read
Reviewed in the United States on September 29, 2016
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... See more
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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rubic
1.0 out of 5 stars
Didn''t love it, didn''t hate it
Reviewed in the United States on September 1, 2018
"A eulogy for Prince Travis" would have been a better title than "Between the World and Me," especially since there is nothing between the world and Mr. Coates other than his own insecurities and self-hatred. As I read through the book and listened to his... See more
"A eulogy for Prince Travis" would have been a better title than "Between the World and Me," especially since there is nothing between the world and Mr. Coates other than his own insecurities and self-hatred. As I read through the book and listened to his own narration on audible, I felt as if I was reading and listening CNN transcripts of incidents of police force against black men. Between the World and Me is no great literary work, but rather more of the same tropes about white people''s dominance and subordination over black people as if black Americans like Barack Obama, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Thurgood Marshall, Deval Patrick and so many other American black men and women have not succeeded against all odds. For me, the best parts of the book were when he met with Prince Jone''s mother and when he was living in Paris, perhaps because it reminded me of my own time in Paris. Yet, he went on to relish and admire French culture and people as if French culture was never a part of the white, European, Western world that he claims to deplore. Sorry, Mr. Coates, but you are a Westerner, not an African, and the opportunities and successes that you have had are because of Western ideals. I don''t question the abuse of force by the police. I do question your sincerity.
325 people found this helpful
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Dani Lacey
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I do not think I could easily describe exactly what it is
Reviewed in the United States on September 30, 2016
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... See more
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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Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Thought provoking, but ...
Reviewed in the United States on September 16, 2018
I purchased this book almost 18 months ago, but only got around to reading it today - I finished in in one day. For context, this is the 2nd book I read this week - the first one was ‘born a crime’ by Trevor Noah. Big mistake to go through such heavy material back to... See more
I purchased this book almost 18 months ago, but only got around to reading it today - I finished in in one day. For context, this is the 2nd book I read this week - the first one was ‘born a crime’ by Trevor Noah. Big mistake to go through such heavy material back to back.
Coates is a great writer; I truly enjoyed reading his work and have an appreciation for his perspective. As a black immigrant, I do have to say that it is very disheartening for me to observe how african americans are stuck in the past. I always wonder why the glass is always half empty, their lack of optimism, their hatred for all things white is soo prevalent with black americans. I am especially appalled when I observe this with educated blacks. To me, the american dream is open to all who want it, you just have to carve out your niche, make sacrifices, and develop your emotional intelligence; the latter is key.
To close, I will do something I am not supposed to do - I will compare Trevor Noah’s book to this one. Trevor is am immigrant, and as such you read his story - a very personal and heartbraking story - yet as a black person you walk away hopeful, optimistic and with a can-do attitude.
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Richard March
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
When will it end ???
Reviewed in the United States on July 12, 2018
As a white man I don''t think I can say anything of value to this love letter to a black son from a father who understands the racism that is part of the history and soul of America .. but it all reads true to me, I have seen the faces of people ready to be disrespected and... See more
As a white man I don''t think I can say anything of value to this love letter to a black son from a father who understands the racism that is part of the history and soul of America .. but it all reads true to me, I have seen the faces of people ready to be disrespected and ignored and mistreated. This is a powerful work of insight and compassion for a son who will have to walk the same path but maybe in a different way ... I recommend this book to anyone who truely wants to better understand the centuries of hurt and damage we have allowed ot happen just because of the color of someone''s skin .. cruelity and blindness to the condition that we allowed to be institutionalized and supported to this very day ..
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Clifton
5.0 out of 5 stars
An Offering of Understanding
Reviewed in the United States on August 14, 2015
Like many of the one- and two- star reviewers of this book, I bristled at certain passages in Between the World and Me. I felt attacked and blamed at times, because I, in Ta-Nehisi Coates'' words, "believe that I am white." So I understand the scorn directed at this... See more
Like many of the one- and two- star reviewers of this book, I bristled at certain passages in Between the World and Me. I felt attacked and blamed at times, because I, in Ta-Nehisi Coates'' words, "believe that I am white." So I understand the scorn directed at this book by many who dismiss it as divisive and simplistic in its assessment of the black experience in America.

But here''s the thing: this book isn''t about me. It''s not trying to tell me what I should do to be a better person or make me feel guilty about things I don''t even understand, much less control. It''s not trying to fix anything. And if you''re reading it that way, I think you''re missing a profound experience.

I''ve never been shown and made to understood the experience of a life so unlike my own as I have with this book. I felt the frustration and fear that Mr. Coates felt growing up black in America. I felt the anger he feels at people who believe that they are white dismissing that experience as so many sour grapes. I felt the hypocrisy of being told not to wear hoodies or play loud music for fear of someone breaking your body.

That''s why this book matters. It''s not a solution to our race problems or an accurate assessment of the progress of America as a nation. It is not a book about white people and how we should change. It is simply a powerful testament of one man''s experience, and an offering of understanding.

I grew up rich, white and privileged in suburban Virginia. I never had to think about my safety, my future or my pride through the lens of my race. I couldn''t even begin to conceive of that experience. Ta-Nehisi Coates is the first person to break through that reality of my upbringing and allow me to step into another experience for a little while.

It was life-changing and important.
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Rachel McElhany
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Required Reading.
Reviewed in the United States on February 20, 2017
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... See more
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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Benjamin Gorman
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Thank you, Mr. Coates, for this generous gift to me and my son.
Reviewed in the United States on March 22, 2017
This may be the single most important book I''ve read in ...decades? It has changed the way I understand my country forever, not just because of the facts embedded in the text, but because of the emotional impact of the format. Coates'' letter to his son is so honest that you... See more
This may be the single most important book I''ve read in ...decades? It has changed the way I understand my country forever, not just because of the facts embedded in the text, but because of the emotional impact of the format. Coates'' letter to his son is so honest that you can''t hide from the power of the explanation. I read this book out loud to my son, and it gave me a chance to explain that, while Coates'' son HAS to understand this truth because his body is on the line, my white son could choose to not care because of the color of his skin. I explained that I read it to him because I want him to grow up to be someone who cares enough to learn more about the true history and current structure of our society than they will ever tell him in school. I am so grateful to Coates for giving this gift to me and my son. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
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Top reviews from other countries

DT
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Wisdom for the Ages - A crafted gem
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 18, 2019
A mesmerizing, intoxicating, intimate life journey through another world, a terrifying world I never knew until now. Mr. Coates deep love, compassion, curiosity terror and fears are shared through painful observation and introspection. Beautiful and painful. True...See more
A mesmerizing, intoxicating, intimate life journey through another world, a terrifying world I never knew until now. Mr. Coates deep love, compassion, curiosity terror and fears are shared through painful observation and introspection. Beautiful and painful. True craftsmanship. For anyone with the courage to take the red pill and wake from their ignorance.
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Akua boateng
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Very beautiful and brilliant.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 22, 2021
Very educational book that put you right into the author''s life.You feel every emotion with the writer.
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Jean Brown
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Required Reading
Reviewed in Canada on July 18, 2020
First of all, the writing is just beautiful. Lyrical, pulsating, powerful. I found myself wanting to save so many sentences and passages. Most importantly, though, Coates’ perspective as a Black man growing up in America is just so essential. I went to a very white...See more
First of all, the writing is just beautiful. Lyrical, pulsating, powerful. I found myself wanting to save so many sentences and passages. Most importantly, though, Coates’ perspective as a Black man growing up in America is just so essential. I went to a very white university not far from where Coates grew up. And yet, my experience and vision of Baltimore is worlds away from his home. We all need to explore why that is. Where this separation originates and how we can dismantle it. The first step is listening to accounts like this one.
6 people found this helpful
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
and it seemed like no doors were closed to us
Reviewed in India on November 16, 2015
It is an important book. Because it makes one wonder about the definition of freedom. Especially since it seems to the rest of the world that America''s foundation is freedom. It saddened me to read it, though it did not surprise me, because over two decades ago my husband...See more
It is an important book. Because it makes one wonder about the definition of freedom. Especially since it seems to the rest of the world that America''s foundation is freedom. It saddened me to read it, though it did not surprise me, because over two decades ago my husband went to America from India with a suitcase and a scholarship and discovered a wonderland there. I joined him now and then, though we would return to live in our own country because of my heightened sensitivity to subtle racism in America, and it seemed like no doors were closed to us. There were people from all over the world who would arrive like us and then begin to own America. But unfortunately for me I discovered Maya Angelou there, and so Toni Morrison, and therefore James Baldwin, and the party ended for me. It did not seem good to see how it was so easy for us to own America but not for those who had made America. It is time a book like this was written. Not because America needs to be portrayed in a dark shade but because truth must be faced.
12 people found this helpful
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Embrace the struggle of being human
Reviewed in Canada on July 25, 2020
This book is a message to America''s sons, packed with historical legacies and open to future possibilities. It''s about both owning and loving a black body, tolerating if not embracing fear and vulnerability, and the conscious pursuit of American dreams. It is a legacy as...See more
This book is a message to America''s sons, packed with historical legacies and open to future possibilities. It''s about both owning and loving a black body, tolerating if not embracing fear and vulnerability, and the conscious pursuit of American dreams. It is a legacy as yet untold to the silent majority. An important literary work for our time. A reason to grieve and to choose hope. A path to discover the collective soulfulness of a father''s legacy to a son. Read it. You will be glad you did.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Between the World and Me, a finalist for the National Book Award. A MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellow, Coates has received the National Magazine Award, the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism, and the George Polk Award for his Atlantic cover story “The Case for Reparations.” He lives in New York with his wife and son.

THE WATER DANCER WE WERE EIGHT YEARS IN POWER THE BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE THE BEAUTIFU STRUGGLE (Adapted for Young Adults)
A boldly conjured debut novel about a magical gift, a devastating loss, and an underground war for freedom A vital account of modern America, from one of the definitive voices of this historic moment; this collection includes the landmark essay “The Case for Reparations.” An exceptional father-son story from the about the reality that tests us, the myths that sustain us, and the love that saves us Adapted from the adult memoir, this father-son story explores how boys become men, and quite specifically, how Ta-Nehisi Coates became Ta-Nehisi Coates

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