Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me

Book - 2015
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Hailed by Toni Morrison as "required reading," a bold and personal literary exploration of America's racial history by "the most important essayist in a generation and a writer who changed the national political conversation about race" ( Rolling Stone )

NAMED ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL BOOKS OF THE DECADE BY CNN * NAMED ONE OF PASTE 'S BEST MEMOIRS OF THE DECADE * 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.
Publisher: New York : Spiegel & Grau, [2015]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780812993547
Characteristics: 152 pages : illustrations ; 20 cm
Call Number: B COATES, T


From Library Staff

Written as a letter to his son, Coates pens a powerful reckoning of what it means to be a black man in America.

List - 11 Voices of America
DCLadults Jun 10, 2020

This powerful book is “a provocative read for anyone interested in a candid perspective on the headlines and history of being black in America.” – from the publisher

A touching autobiography written as a letter to the author's young son.

After Coates re-read "The Fire Next Time" by James Baldwin, he wrote this long essay to his teenage son about being black in America and facing racism.

HappyPuffin Sep 27, 2016

A timely, candid and poignant view of race relations in America. A must read for anyone wanting to expand their viewpoint and understanding of this important issue.

From the critics

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May 12, 2021

Beautifully lyrical, insightful, wholehearted.
Listen to the audio book for the the most poetic experience.

Apr 19, 2021

I am spellbound and heartbroken at the same time. Listening to his voice as he tells the story of his youth and so many others' childhoods and experiences as Black, I can start to understand the weight I do not have to carry and can never fully understand.

Apr 04, 2021

Changed the way I see so many things. So grateful to have heard Ta-Nehisi Coates' beautiful voice.

✔︎ The dominant narrative about white people is gradually changing, as working-class whites are seen as a problem demographic, beset by declining life expectancy, dead-end jobs, rural backwardness, drug addiction, family breakdown and obesity. They are no longer able to claim to belong to the superior race, but are portrayed as victims rather than predators, clinging to "guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigration sentiment or anti-trade sentiment," as Barack Obama put it back in 2008, to give meaning to their empty, desolate lives.

Dec 14, 2020

I have to admit I’m not a fan. While Between the World and Me was interesting for its insights into TNC’s world and the PTSD that black boys inherit, I thought it was short on remedy or even coping strategy. Reviewers—black ones and white—from NY Times and The Guardian also felt it was significant but flawed in its hopelessness. Also, I dislike the overwritten style, too poetic for its subject matter, INHO.

Dec 12, 2020

This is a must read. Coates tackles the issues of race in the US. Tracing the issues of today back through Civil Rights, Jim Crow, Reconstruction, the Civil War, and the trans-Atlantic slave trade. However, this book is deeply personal as his teenage son is the intended audience. We are lucky enough to see Coates bare his heart and share his life and experiences with the reader. He must write this for his son, in an attempt to explain why the killers of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin walk free. Coates also criticizes those who accept the rules of whiteness and who attempt to emulate it for their own profit and security.

"The Dream thrives on generalization, on limiting the number of possible questions, on privileging immediate answers. The Dream is the enemy of all art, courageous thinking, and honest writing. And it became clear that this was not just for the dreams concocted by Americans to justify themselves but also for the dreams that I had conjured to replace them. I had thought that I must mirror the outside world, create a carbon copy of white claims to civilization. It was beginning to occur to me to question the logic of the claim itself. "
Coates is criticizing the illusion of the "American Dream." (At first I thought he meant MLK's I-had-a-dream speech. But he is attacking the very ideal of American exceptionalism.)

"A society almost necesarily begins every success story with the chapter that most advantages itself, and in America, these precipitating chapters are almost always rendered as the singular actions of indiviudals... This is also a myth.

On intolerance and hate: "I am black and have been plundered, maybe I would take another human's body to confirm myself in a community. Perhaps I already had. Hate gives identity. The nigger, the fag, the bitch illuminate the border, illuminate what we are not, illuminate the Dream of being white, of being a Man. We name the hated strangers and are thus confirmed by the tribe."

"The spirit and soul are the body and the brain, which are destructible - that is precisely why they are so precious."

"Black-on-black crime is jargon, violence to language, which vanishes the men who engineered the covenants, who fixed the loans, who planned the projects, who built the streets and sold red ink by the barrel. And this should not surprise us. 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 yell 'black-on-black crime' is to shoot a man and then shame him for bleeding."

"l saw that what divided me from the world was not anything intrinsic to us but the actual injury done by people intend on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do."

Dec 10, 2020

Everyone in this country needs to read this book.

Nov 23, 2020

HBO has released a film adaptation.

Nov 19, 2020

Learned about this via Northern Magazine (NMU)

Nov 11, 2020


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Jan 30, 2020

“I wanted to pursue things, to know things, but I could not match the means of knowing that came naturally to me with the expectations of professors. The pursuit of knowing was freedom to me, the right to declare your own curiosities and follow them through all manner of books. I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people's interests. The library was open, unending, free.”

Dec 27, 2018

For their innocence, they nullify your anger, your fear, until you are coming and going, and you find yourself inveighing against yourself -- 'Black people are the only people who ...' -- really inveighing against your own humanity and raging against the crime in your ghetto, because you are powerless before the great crime of history that brought the ghettos to be.

Feb 17, 2017

“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 these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white.”

Jan 14, 2017

I grew up in a house drawn between love and fear. There was no room for softness. But this girl with the long dreads revealed something else -- that love could be soft and understanding; that, soft or hard, love was an act of heroism.

Aug 26, 2016

"Never forget that we were enslaved in this country longer than we have been free. Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains - whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains."

Jun 08, 2016

(This book opens with a quote from Richard Wright that contains the title of the book):

And one morning while in the woods I stumbled suddenly upon the thing, stumbled upon it in a grassy clearing guarded by scaly oaks and elms. And the sooty details of the scene rose, thrusting themselves between the world and me.

bickjd Apr 04, 2016

"Once, the Dream’s parameters were caged by technology and by the limits of horsepower and wind. But the Dreamers have improved themselves, and the damming of seas for voltage, the extraction of coal, the transmuting of oil into food, have enabled an expansion in plunder with no known precedent. And this revolution has freed the Dreamers to plunder not just the bodies of humans but the body of the Earth itself. The Earth is not our creation. It has no respect for us. It has no use for us. And its vengeance is not the fire in the cities but the fire in the sky. Something more fierce is riding on the whirlwind. Something more awful than all our African ancestors is rising with the seas…across the sprawl, is the automobile, the noose around the neck of the earth, and ultimately, the Dreamers themselves.” (150)

bickjd Apr 04, 2016

“…predictions of national doom. I had head such predictions all my life… [I knew] that this was all too pat, knowing that should the Dreamers reap what they had sown, we would reap it right with them. Plunder has matured into habit and addiction; the people who could author the mechanized death of our ghettos, the mass rape of private prisons, then engineer their own forgetting, must inevitably plunder much more. This is not belief in prophecy but in the seductiveness of cheap gasoline."

Dec 08, 2015

That was the week you learned that the killers of Michael Brown would go free… and I heard you crying. I came in five minutes after, and I didn’t hug you, and I didn’t comfort you, because I thought it would be wrong to comfort you. I did not tell you it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay. What I told you is what your grandparents tried to tell me: that this is your country, that this is your world, that this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.

Sep 17, 2015

“The pursuit of knowing was freedom to me, the right to declare your own curiosities and follow them through all manner of books. I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free.”


Add a Summary
Sep 21, 2020

This is a story that is in the form of a letter from the author to his 15 year old son. The book has 3 parts, the first part is about the author’s childhood and what it was like growing up in West Baltimore ghettos.

The second part of the book talks about the death of someone he met while attending Howard University, Prince Jones. He feels rage toward police brutality involved with his death. The author wants his son Samori to understand the weight and struggle he will have a black man in America. The author also goes to France and his eyes are opened to life in other parts of the world and how he fits in as he realizes how fear has damaged him.

The third part is about the author’s meeting with the mother of Prince Jones, Dr. Mabel Jones. She tells about her history and more about her son. The author wants to prepare his son and remind him to engage in the struggle for his own life as a black person. He wants his son to know that he is not responsible for changing white people to the struggle he sees.


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Sep 17, 2015

Violence: Murders of African American men


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