If you’ve read Ta-Nahisi Coates, in The Atlantic, or anywhere else, you already know what you’re in for when you pick up Between the World and Me. You already know that he is an exceptional writer, and that his unique background and experience allows him to speak more eloquently on the subject of race relations in America than you can imagine. You already know that the force of his words will affect you; you already know that you are going to feel exposed and vulnerable and emotional when you read his words. You should probably know, if you are like me, that you are going to have to bury your head in your hands and sob for five minutes in the middle of a coffee shop at least once. Not because you are being emotionally manipulated, but (again, maybe this is just me) because it will really hit you that someone can move you so powerfully with a written phrase. You, if you are like me, will be a mess reading this book. And yet… not a sad mess, not an angry mess, just a mess. And you will love every word.
Between the World and Me is a series of essays that Coates has written in the form of letters to his adolescent son about growing up black in America. The letters tell of his experiences; his childhood, his college years, his career. They also speak to tragic and horrible current events and the evolution of societal attitudes. But more than that, they are simply love letters to a child that a father would do anything to keep safe, which everyone can relate to.
Many people recommended this book to me and to be honest, I resisted it for a while. I was afraid to read it; worried that I would feel powerless or guilty or privileged – an exceptional argument for why I should have read it. But I never did feel that way, because the beauty in the writing is that it seeks to make you understand rather than judging. My Goodreads review, updated a full day after I read it, said only “gorgeous” because even then I couldn’t explain how beautiful and powerful it is. Between the World and Me is gorgeous and fantastic and beautiful and I loved it.
Grade – A