Megan Jensen ’18/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
In his captivating new nonfiction text, Ta-Nehisi Coates recounts what it means to be a black man in today’s America. Coates uses his text as a letter to his son, who is now growing up in the age of police brutality and incessant racism in both the systematic and cultural worlds. Filled with brilliant prose and nuanced examples of racism in his own life and others, this text has been dubbed “required reading” by Toni Morrison and “impossible to stay away from” by many others. And in February, Black History Month, it is an even more essential read.
Coates writes not only about his own experience with the cultural falsity of ‘race’ and being a black man, but also about America’s terrible history and fight against people of color. He does not preach, but instead brings to light the frightening issues that every person of color faces today. Coates places a large emphasis on “The Mecca” (Howard University) explaining to his son how drastically his experience has been shaped by understanding his own culture and the pasts of those connected to him.
This read not only gives readers an important history lesson but also a lesson in how history is presented today. During his journey, he visits a fairly racist civil war ground, and speaks about his past with his Black Panther father and growing up hearing the words of Malcolm X constantly reiterated to him. He learned that his body is constantly at war with the rest of the world, and that because of the creation of race in the eyes of Americans, he is now far more likely to be in jail, to be prejudiced, to be beaten, and to be killed.
Coates explains how broken the American Dream is, and how the impossible feat of happiness is no longer a reality for anyone other than the rich, white dreamer. His experience showed him that the American Dream is no more than a false reality created from white privilege. His account of the modern and racist America seems bleak, and Coates rarely offers ways in which society could begin to fix their issues with race. In fact, he often leaves it as an “us versus them” account, where America is doomed to stay in racism forever. Some readers might shy away from the book because of this.
Between the World and Me is the winner of prestigious awards, including the National Book Award for Nonfiction, on top of being a New York Times Number One Bestseller. It was also named one of the ten best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review. A clear winner of the 2015 reading year, it would be surprising to not consider reading this powerful piece of text.