So this is my 100th book review in this blog! How awesome is that? Thank you for sticking around. 🙂 Time really flies very quickly. It took me some time to actually decide what book to read for my 100th review. When I got tired of thinking, on a whim, I picked up this book. I’m happy with my choice considering that this is one of the books that has been on my radar since its release last year. It’s also one of the most hyped up books in Booktube and I haven’t seen any bad reviews of it yet. And yes, Between the World and Me is a non-fiction book! For my 100th review, I’m reviewing a non-fiction book which is actually my first! 🙂
Between the World and Me (a line taken from a Richard Wright poem) by Ta-nehesi Coates was inspired by James Baldwin’s 1963 classic work The Fire Next Time, which was written in epistolary form for his nephew. In this book, Coates, writes to his 14-year old son, Samori, about the struggles of being black in America. Layered and full of insights about the reality of their world, Coates, in this book, shares to his son their people’s hardships, struggles and hopes.
The book won the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction, finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction and named one the best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Newsday, Vogue, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Publishers Weekly and Library Journal among others. Toni Morrison was quoted saying that Coates fills “the intellectual void” left by James Baldwin’ when he dies 28 years ago and this book being “required reading”.
A book that serves as a memoir and a cultural and political criticism, the book studies the root of racism in America and how until now it seems to still be present. The book makes racism appear to be a wound that never heals. The author raised questions about how deep-rooted racism is in the culture of America. The recent brutal killings of young African Americans by police officers were highlighted and served as one of the focal points of his arguments. He writes that “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” and the “need to be always on guard.”
The book discusses the events leading to the generalization that people of color in America are doomed to carry the burden of being denied with the privileges of, as what Coates refer to as, “The Dream” despite it being built “built on the backs of African Americans for years”. The Dream, he explains, is “perfect houses with nice lawns.” Coates refers people who “believe they are white” as the Dreamers. Coates points in this book that the Dreamers continues to remain ignorant about the sacrifices his people made that helped shape the course of American history, with a lot of times, at the cost of their lives to have the luxuries that the Dreamers are currently enjoying. This eventually added a gap between the African Americans and the Dreamers. At the heart of everything is racism. As what Coates has written, Dreamers “have forgotten the scale of theft that enriched them in slavery; the terror that allowed them, for a century, to pilfer the vote; the segregationist policy that gave them their suburbs. 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” and to become conscious of that will shatter The Dream.
I never thought that I could be this invested with a nonfiction book. I never thought that non-fiction books could be this moving. The reason why I believe that it was successful in delivering its message is that, the book gives a vibe that will make you assess your actions towards other aside from it being a personal account of a father’s experiences and him writing about it to his son. The author included his life growing up “always on guard” in the ghettos, the discrimination that he received and the endless-like news about “friskings, detainings, beatings, and humiliations”, the people he meet that introduced him further as to how the Dreamers view their identity and eventually influenced him to defend his stand and the places he went that allowed him to further enhance his understanding in the “war” that he believes is being waged against the blacks. There’s always that physical and psychological fear that still haunts him that he does not want his son to experience.
I savored every page of this book. The writing is so powerful and evocative. It’s exceptionally written and on point. Despite the book tackling a heavy topic which is racism, the author managed to successfully send the message across which is easily understood. This is one of the books where I found myself always stopping because I had to think about what I just read. Although at times upsetting and may appear to be pessimistic at times, I believe that this book is necessary in today’s society. This made me have a bigger and wider understanding about this world where we live. The author wants readers to understand their situation as black people and to consider what they feel as victims of racism.
This book is an honest proof that racism exists. Wherever you live. Whatever your nationality or belief is. Whatever your skin color is. The best thing that we can do is to acknowledge its existence, to the best of our abilities create awareness about it and to take actions in making each one that we meet feel respected and loved. We live in the same world therefore we should learn to take part, be engaged and be part of the solution. This 150-page book’s profound examination about racism made me realize how deep-rooted this issue is and how complex it can be. I encourage this book to be read by everyone. This book deserves to become a classic.
My most favorite line in the book was a mother of a killed boy’s message to Coate’s son:
“You exist. You matter. You have value. You have every right to wear your hoodie, to play your music as loud as you want. You have every right to be you. And no one should deter you from being you. You have to be you. And you can never be afraid to be you.”
This book didn’t fail me. I am very glad I finally get around to read this book. I know for sure, I’ll read this book again in the future. 5 stars out of 5.
Author: Ta-nehesi Coates
Part of a Series: No
Release Year: July 2015
Publisher: Text Publishing
No. of Pages: 152 pages
About the Author
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a senior editor for The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues for TheAtlantic.com and the magazine. He is the author of the 2008 memoir The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood. His book Between the World and Me, released in 2015, won the National Book Award for Nonfiction. Coates received the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” in 2015. (About the Author and Details courtesy of Goodreads)