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Between the World and Me
Cover of Between the World and Me
Between the World and Me
Borrow Borrow
Hailed by Toni Morrison as "required reading," a bold and personal literary exploration of America's racial history by "the single best writer on the subject of race in the United States" (The New York Observer)
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER | NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER | NAACP IMAGE AWARD WINNER | PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST | NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST | 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.
    Praise for Between the World and Me
    "Powerful . . . a searing meditation on what it means to be black in America today."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
    "Eloquent . . . in the tradition of James Baldwin with echoes of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man . . . an autobiography of the black body in America."The Boston Globe
    "Brilliant . . . [Coates] is firing on all cylinders."The Washington Post
    "Urgent, lyrical, and devastating . . . a new classic of our time."Vogue
    "A crucial book during this moment of generational awakening."The New Yorker
    "Titanic and timely . . . essential reading."Entertainment Weekly
  • Hailed by Toni Morrison as "required reading," a bold and personal literary exploration of America's racial history by "the single best writer on the subject of race in the United States" (The New York Observer)
    #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER | NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER | NAACP IMAGE AWARD WINNER | PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST | NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST | 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.
    Praise for Between the World and Me
    "Powerful . . . a searing meditation on what it means to be black in America today."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
    "Eloquent . . . in the tradition of James Baldwin with echoes of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man . . . an autobiography of the black body in America."The Boston Globe
    "Brilliant . . . [Coates] is firing on all cylinders."The Washington Post
    "Urgent, lyrical, and devastating . . . a new classic of our time."Vogue
    "A crucial book during this moment of generational awakening."The New Yorker
    "Titanic and timely . . . essential reading."Entertainment Weekly
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    • From the cover 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...
    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.
    Reviews-
    • Publisher's Weekly

      Starred review from July 6, 2015
      In the scant space of barely 160 pages, Atlantic national correspondent Coates (The Beautiful Struggle) has composed an immense, multifaceted work. This is a poet's book, revealing the sensibility of a writer to whom words—exact words—matter. Coates's bildungsroman shows the writer as a young man, in settings that include Baltimore's streets, Howard University's campus, and Paris's boulevards. It's also a journalist's book, not only because it speaks so forcefully to issues of grave interest today, but because of its close attention to fact. (The real-life killing of unarmed Howard student Prince Jones, in 2000, by an undercover police officer gradually becomes a motif, made particularly effective by the fact that Coates knew Jones, and his conversation with Jones's mother, which concludes the book.) Coates intimately presents the text as a letter to his son, both an expression of love and a cautionary tale about "police departments... endowed with the authority to destroy his body." As a meditation on race in America, haunted by the bodies of black men, women, and children, Coates's compelling, indeed stunning, work is rare in its power to make you want to slow down and read every word. This is a book that will be hailed as a classic of our time. Agent: Gloria Loomis, Watkins Loomis Literary Agency.

    • Library Journal

      September 15, 2015

      Framed as a letter to his teenage son, Coates's (The Beautiful Struggle) account of race in America works as both memoir and meditation. The author explores several themes: the vulnerability of black bodies (the focus on the body borrowed from feminism), the "dream" (the product of those in America who "believe themselves to be white"), and the "Mecca" (Coates referring to his undergraduate experience at Howard University). It's not an optimistic book--the motives for hope and forgiveness on the part of black Americans are suspect, writes Coates, and the institutionalized racism built on white supremacy is portrayed as deeply ingrained in our heritage as a country. Most striking perhaps are the author's meditations on the frailty of the body and the fear that those who grow up black in America learn to feel for the safety of their bodies and those of their children--all made especially poignant by the author's atheism, which he contrasts with the sometimes inspirational history lessons that he was taught when young. The choice to have Coates read his own book works exceptionally well--his delivery is understated but powerful and gives a real voice to the anger and sadness behind the haunting lyricism of his writing. VERDICT An essential library purchase. ["This powerful little book may well serve as a primer for black parents, particularly those with sons, but also as a provocative read for anyone interested in a candid perspective on the headlines and history of being black in America. Highly recommended": LJ 8/15 starred review of the Spiegel & Grau hc.]--Victoria A. Caplinger, NoveList, Durham, NC

      Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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