Ta-Nehisi Coates is an “important” writer I’ve been aware of for quite some time. However, I’m most familiar with him from an appearance on the PBS show, Finding Your Roots. So, when my company decided to get a book-reading list together in response to the George Floyd killing – and attempting to up their corporate self-awareness game – I chose Between the World and Me from the list of about 5 choices.
I’m glad I embarked on a quick read of this love-letter to a teenage son in the form of a book. The theme: the protection of the black body against a society that is bent on breaking that proverbial skin in all manner of institutionally biased racist constructs.
Coming in just over 150 pages, most folks will find themselves reading this in a sitting or two. It is written in Coates’ very unique voice, and – what I’m assuming – is his trademark, a fast-paced narrative style. I like this, and find that it fits the framework upon which the book is built. As I mentioned, this is supposed to be written as a letter from father to son. It’s a very novel (no-pun intended) concept, and one that I found held my attention throughout the read. It has that ability to keep you moving quickly through things even if the topics are ones that are not easy to grapple with.
If that’s part of Coates’ intent, it is a very clever one. That is to say, I’m guessing he knows that there are a bunch of non-black, mainstream, suburban, college-educated people that aren’t going to be able to directly connect with the experiences he’s relating as a black American male. However, even if the reader finds their interest waning they can connect with the love of a father/son. That’s brilliant, and it works really well.
The book doesn’t bring me any revelations on race-relations, but it does help me get inside the shoes of black Americans a lot better. Therefore, I recommend this to my audience with a strong seal of approval.