“For all books are divisible into two classes: the books of the hour and the books of all time.”- John Ruskin
The books of all time are rare. Books of all time that speak into the present condition with such power and challenge? Even more rare. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates may be such a book. It’s a memoir of Coates’ life as a black man in America, written to his son. And it’s profound, challenging, and disheartening. Coates is an unashamed atheist, and holds what some would consider to be extreme views on race relations. See his work for The Atlantic, for which he is highly acclaimed.
Between the World and Me is a New York Times bestseller and winner of the National Book Award. After a reading, it’s clear as to why. Coates is a brilliant writer, sharp thinker, and can deeply examine the range of his experience and American racial history in about 150 pages. It’s a deeply personal window into Coates’ life and yet also a deeply prophetic window into American society.
Coates pulls no punches, which will likely result in certain points that you disagree with. But great books often take you places of discomfort, of challenge, of critique . . . for that’s where deep learning and growth occurs.
One of the most powerful passages (in my opinion) can be found on page 107:
“You (Somori, Coates’ son) have been cast into a race in which the wind is always at your face and the hounds are always at your heels. And to varying degrees this is true of all of life. The difference is that you do not have the privilege of living in ignorance of this essential fact.”
If you want to better understand the experience of a black man in America in this time in history, this should be required reading. Pick up a copy. Discuss it with friends. Engage the challenge.