BookRiot suggested Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me as a book by a journalist or about journalism, #5 on their Read Harder 2019 Challenge. I’d been wanting to read Coates for ages now, and this seemed like an excellent place to start.
I’m not even sure what I can say that would even begin to do justice to this beautiful, painful little book. Written as a letter to his teenage son, Mr. Coates covers a wide range of topics: the danger of making ones way through life in a black body; the fear he feels for his son when teenagers like Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin and his friend Prince Carmen Jones wind up dead on the street with no consequences for the people who kill them; the breathtakingly cruel history of slavery, and the trauma and consequences of that history that still resound in our justice system and in everyday lives of black people; and the story of how he became the man he is today.
Mr. Coates conveys his anger, his frustration, his pain, and his wonder at his son and being a father in such eloquent, moving language that had I wanted to write down the most meaningful quotes, I would’ve ended up copying out the entire book, and if I had wanted to underline the parts that touched me deeply, angered me, made me think, there would’ve been a line under every piece of text . This starts on the very first page and doesn’t end until the last, with the imagery of sheets of rain a haunting metaphor for the grief one feels when we look around and are able to see all the trauma White America has inflicted and continues to inflict on people with black skin. I am deeply, deeply ashamed and angered. We should be so much better than that, but we actively choose not to be, and it’s infuriating.
This is an important book, and although I have yet to fully engage with audiobooks, I feel as though this would make a stunning one. Mr. Coates’s impassioned words deserve to be voiced out loud, as so much of the book reads like the most powerful speech you’ve ever heard. If you’ve enjoyed this as an audiobook, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I think this is a book everyone will be handed in school, if not now (as it should be), then in the future. It deserves to be read widely, repeatedly, until its words are engraved on our souls, until we finally GET IT, and then even more so that we never forget.