Wow, this book was fantastic! It was beautifully written and successfully drew me into a world that I, as a grown, white female, had only a little insWow, this book was fantastic! It was beautifully written and successfully drew me into a world that I, as a grown, white female, had only a little insight into at the start; namely, growing up as a black male in and around Baltimore (though the autobiographical author is about the same age as I am, so the era is familiar).
As unfamiliar and undereducated about this part of the world as I am, he was able to navigate me through in a way that helped me to understand and relate. Rarely do I get this sensation when reading, except in fantasy, science fiction, or the like - but to step into a different, *real* world so completely is a rarity. To step in with such a skilled guide, magnificent.
I particularly loved how Ta-Nehisi Coates' vulnerability as an author contrasted with the story of his guardedness and naiveté as a teenager. As an adult, he was able to bring to his writing an introspective, yet self-aware, compassionate, humor, personality-filled, and ultimately fair view of his own life.
Note: there are a ton of references that I caught only because I'd picked them up in talking with black friends over the years - often things that they took for granted, as I might take social references to The Muppets for granted. I'm sure there were a ton more that I missed. I wanted to keep reading my first time through, but I'll probably read it again, keeping the Interwebs close at hand to look things up.
Also, sometime last year I'd decided that I wasn't naturally reading enough voices outside of the mainstream (i.e. white men or the occasional white women or person of color). I needed to intentionally choose to listen to and surround myself with other voices and perspectives, more than I was. I've followed this author online for a bit and really appreciated many of his articles and other posts, so he seemed like a great candidate for my "project." (I put project in quotes because I think it should be a new way of being, not a limited time project.) I haven't been reading a lot since I made that resolution, but this book did not disappoint and has made me even more excited to listen to new voices!...more
I read about 1/2 of this book in November, while I was on my trip to Rome, and I really enjoyed it, but found some of the featured authors a bit ploddI read about 1/2 of this book in November, while I was on my trip to Rome, and I really enjoyed it, but found some of the featured authors a bit plodding. And yet, I picked it up to fill in some gaps in my historical knowledge of the movements of that period and some history of the city I live in (San Francisco), and influences to my social circles and lifestyle. I had no idea how much of an influence this small group of notable "Beats" had on society and later generations.
I remember watching cartoons that featured Beatniks, and seeing Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, as a caricature of a Beatnik (or Beat's girlfriend, as they were a male-dominant group, with women mostly in the side-lines). My sister, only 6 years my junior, had no knowledge of City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco; Couldn't even recall having heard of Beatniks, Beats, Beat Poetry, many/any of the major authors/poets, or Beat *anything* when she moved to San Francisco! Shocking! Although in retrospect, my knowledge was hardly rich with understanding, even though I'd read some Burroughs, knew of Kerouac and On the Road, Ginsberg and Howl.
I appreciate this anthology because Ann Charters does a great job of positioning the works, the sentiments and feelings in relation to history. Coming from only a rudimentary knowledge of the era and the motivation of the Beats, it's helpful to have the stories and poems skillfully placed alongside the back-stories of the people involved and the times they lived in.
This book reminds me of the best parts of evaluating writing in a college classroom - an adept, knowledgeable guide can make a huge difference to understand, or better, *liking* a piece. While I may have been predisposed to liking Beat writing because of it's influence to my life and culture, I very much believe Ann Charter's book has given me much deeper appreciation and stronger liking for the works I've read in this anthology so far.