Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy” as Want to Read:
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  16,942 ratings  ·  2,360 reviews
In this "urgently relevant"* collection featuring the landmark essay "The Case for Reparations," the National Book Award-winning author of Between the World and Me "reflects on race, Barack Obama's presidency and its jarring aftermath"*--including the election of Donald Trump.

New York Times Bestseller - Finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Bo
...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 30th 2018 by One World (first published October 3rd 2017)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about We Were Eight Years in Power, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Nancy I think it'd be great for book club - there's definitely a lot to discuss! There's an essay from each year that Obama was in office, so it provides a…moreI think it'd be great for book club - there's definitely a lot to discuss! There's an essay from each year that Obama was in office, so it provides a historical framework. Coates prefaces each essay with his thoughts about the piece now, so you can analyze his analysis :)(less)
Natasha I agree with Susan. Also because Coates speaks in depth about his friend Prince's death in Between the World and me, and makes reference to it in…moreI agree with Susan. Also because Coates speaks in depth about his friend Prince's death in Between the World and me, and makes reference to it in Eight Years. However, Eight Years can be picked up and put down between chapters. So, if you wanted to totally nerd out, you could start with Eight Years, then stop and read Between the World and Me after "year 6" of eight years. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.43  · 
Rating details
 ·  16,942 ratings  ·  2,360 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Roxane
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review forthcoming. Thoughtful, sobering essay collection with moments of memoir. Some exceptional moments, some repetitive ideas, a glaring absence of reckoning with the intersection of race and gender. Well worth a read.
Bill  Kerwin

In We Were Eight Years in Power, Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me (2015), has given us not only another essential work of African American literature but also a classic example of American prose.

Although it lacks the concentrated power and beauty of Between the World and Me, there is a good reason for this, for it is a collection of eight essays written for The Atlantic Monthly over a period of eight years, the years of the Obama presidency. In the prefatory “notes” to each
...more
Darwin8u
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
"White people are, in some profound way, trapped; it took generations to make them white, and it will take more to unmake them."
- Ta-Nehisi Coates, from his notes to the fourth year, We Were Eight Years in Power

description

The framework is basic. Ta-Nehisi Coates takes one essay he wrote from the Atlantic during each of the eight years of Barack Obama's presidency*. That's it. Well, actually, if that was it you could just Google his Atlantic essays (see list below) and not have to bother with the book. The
...more
Pouting Always
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ta-Nehisi Coates was unemployed and struggling before Obama's presidency was announced. With a black person running for president, and becoming president though there was a shift in the opportunities available for a writer who was addressing race. Ta-Nehisi Coates puts together eight essays he wrote through out the years of Obama's presidency and reflects on them in terms of his own head space at the time he wrote them and his growth as a writer. He tries to explain to us what he was trying to c ...more
BookOfCinz
EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK. THIS BOOK SHOULD BE STUDIED IN SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES. THIS IS ESSENTIAL, MUST READ MATERIAL

I cannot stress enough how essential this book is to the world and most importantly to America. This book comes at the most relevant time in America's history and should be read by every American. I am not even American and this book spoke to me in ways I could not imagine. Ta-Nehisi Coates is as Ghostface puts it, "an arsonist who burns with his pen".

The writing in t
...more
Cheri
!! NOW AVAILABLE !!

”People get ready
For the train to Jordan
Picking up passengers
From coast to coast”

“Faith is the key
Open the doors and board them
There's room for all
Among those loved the most”

-- “People Get Ready” – Curtis Mayfield

In 1895, South Carolina congressman Thomas Miller appealed to the State’s constitutional convention with these words -

‘We were eight years in power. We had built schoolhouses, established charitable institutions, built and maintained the penitentiary system, provide
...more
Michael
Nov 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
My review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, also can be found on my blog.

A collection of eight essays first published in The Atlantic, We Were Eight Years in Power reflects on the deteriorating state of race relations in America during the Obama presidency. The subjects of the essays are wide in scope, ranging from Michelle Obama’s representation of herself on the campaign trail to the legacy of Malcolm X. In the two best essays, “The Case for Reparations” and “The Black Family in the Ag
...more
Erin
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I of course read Ta-Nehisi Coates bestseller Between The World And Me and loved it(I may reread just to give it a proper review). So when I heard he was publishing a collection of essays he wrote for The Atlantic during the Obama years, I knew I had to read it.

I like Mr. Coates felt that the 2016 election of 45 simply reconfirmed my disgust for "my" country. This book is a gut wrenching and maddening overview of what lead the majority of white Americans to follow the Presidency of the first bla
...more
Dan Wilbur
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don’t want to spoil anything, but at the end of this book, Donald Trump becomes president of the United States. It’s a bummer.
B. P. Rinehart
"By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the willows
we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for entertainment,
our plunderers demanded songs of joy;
they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
but how can we sing the Lord's songs in a foreign land?
" - Psalm 137:1-4

"I had started in an unemployment office . I had started with the refuse of failure — a reporter’s pad half - filled with notes on some soon - to - be - disgraced entertainer — had graduat
...more
Erin
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Audiobook narrated by Beresford Bennett 13h 39m

I have so much to say, but find it difficult to articulate all my thoughts and feelings. Although I think I prefer my "Between the World and Me" audio because it is narrated by the author, this is definitely a great audio that I would recommend. As many of my fellow reviewers have already stated, this is a collection of eight essays written by Coates during the Obama presidency. I only discovered the author in 2017 and I truly enjoy his perspecti
...more
Hadrian
Compilation of Atlantic articles across the past eight years. In all likelihood, you've read at least one already, such as "The Case for Reparations", "The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration", or "My President was Black", but they are worth going over again.

One article is taken from each of the eight years of the Obama presidency. The older pieces are still relevant - the first year's article is about Bill Cosby-style social conservatism and advocacy, which still continues after Cosb
...more
Trish
Coates intersperses notes of his experience each of the eight years of Obama’s presidency along with some of his carefully-researched larger essays previously published in The Atlantic. It is especially worthwhile to read again his earlier pieces in their context with the hindsight a few years bring, and not having to search around several places for his ideas makes this book especially valuable. Most of us were not prepared for Ta-Nehisi Coates when his work first appeared in the monthly magazi ...more
Bam
An excellent collection of essays written by Coates during the eight years of Barack Obama's administration. Where is the 'American tragedy' you may ask? In what follows those eight years. In the shattering of 'the dream of a post-racial America.'

"...writing is always some form of interpretation, some form of translating the specificity of one's roots or expertise or even one's own mind into language that can be absorbed and assimilated into the consciousness of a broader audience."

In these ess
...more
Clif Hostetler
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-events
This book is a collection of eight essays by Ta-Nehisi Coates previously published in The Atlantic, one from each year of the Obama administration. Each essay is accompanied with an opening commentary that describes the circumstances, political environment and state of mind in which the essay was written including the author’s personal and professional situation at the time.

In a real sense this book is a recapitulation of some political issues taken from the past eight years and examined from a
...more
Angela
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some parts were a bit repetitive but I'll give it a pass because this book is a collection of essays/articles Coates wrote in the 8 years of Obama's presidency, so they weren't originally telling a singular story therefore the repetition wasn't repetitive in its individual publishing.

In this Coates discusses mass incarceration, redlining, the Civil War, reparations, Obama, Black Power Movement, Trump, and also debunks the newly-created and annoying myth that white America has always loved MLK an
...more
Andre
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superb. Ta-Nehisi Coates has become the go-to guy on writing about race from the perspective of African-Americans. Happily, this is a role he doesn't shirk from, in fact he eagerly embraces his status. "I had become The Atlantic’s “Black Writer”—a phrase that described both my identity and my interests. There was always a sense that African American journalists should avoid being tagged as “black” lest they be “boxed in” and unable to pursue more “universal” topics such as the economy and global ...more
Raymond
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very good collection some of Ta-Nehisi's essays from the past eight years. I had read five of them before and my intention was just to read the three that I had not read and the new essays but I changed my mind. His new essays preface the ones that he wrote for The Atlantic. He talks alot about where he was as a writer and what he was thinking about race relations. The new essays were so good that I felt compelled to reread the old essays. Overall I highly recommend this book to reade ...more
Donna Davis
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people of color, and Caucasians that can stand the heat
Ta-Nehisi Coates is pissed. He has a thing or two to say about the historical continuity of racism in the USA, and in this series of eight outstanding essays, he says it well. I read it free and early thanks to Net Galley and Random House, and I apologize for reviewing it so late; the length wasn’t a problem, but the heat was hard to take. That said, this is the best nonfiction civil rights book I have seen published in at least 20 years.

Coates started his writing career as a journalist, and be
...more
Leonicka
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, diverse
I cycled through rage and anguish while reading this. It is a thorough retrospective on the (all too brief) moment of Obama's presidency, how it fits into the writer's life and how it fits into America's history.
Mehrsa
Oct 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s good because Coates is an excellent writer and thinker so 5 stars for that, but it’s a collection of essays that he’s already published so there’s really nothing new here except the prologue to each essay. Those words are good and it was nice to read the essays again in order, but it’s not a new work.
Amerie
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must-read. One of the most important books I’ve ever read.
vanessa
This book of essays is worth a read and made me think in new ways. Specifically, I saw a black conservatism I didn't know about before (from people I side-eye like Bill Cosby to people I admire like Barack Obama). My favorite essay by far is "Why Do So Few Blacks Study the Civil War?" for its insight on revising and reframing history. Coates is skeptical and thoughtful.
Patrice Hoffman
Where do I begin when reviewing We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates? I don't think... actually... I know I don't have the words to express how impressive this collection of articles is. I'm reminded of Zoolander 2 when Zoolander says he literally does not have the vocabulary to respond. I am in that moment. For those thinking what an idiot I am for throwing Zoolander into a review of Coates, who is a stunning writer, is absolutely correct. So...

For those familia
...more
Conor
After overdosing on them in 2017 I gave up Election 2016 retrospectives, not being able to stomach them for the hatred and regret they stirred within me. I wasn't counting on this to be one of those books, but at times it very much felt like one. It's hard to view America any other way after reading "The election of Donald Trump confirmed everything I knew about my country and none of what I could accept."

In this book TNC reproduces eight of his seminal articles devoted to race and politics and
...more
Meike
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-read, politics, usa
In this collection of texts, Coates reminisces about his personal experiences during every year of the Obama administration, and each of these personal vignettes is followed by one of his influential essays that have first appeared in The Atlantic between 2008 and 2016:

* This Is How We Lost to the White Man
* American Girl
* Why Do So Few Blacks Study the Civil War?
* The Legacy of Malcolm X
* Fear of a Black President
* The Case for Reparations
* The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration
* My
...more
Jill Mackin
An outstanding collection of essays on civil rights, history and being black in America. Powerful.
Neil R. Coulter
We Were Eight Years in Power is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read. The individual articles, originally published in The Atlantic, are excellent, but what makes this book so fantastic is that we get to see not just those articles, but also the journey of the author, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Just reading the articles alone would give an interesting glimpse into his story. We see him beginning with fascinating and relatively brief essays on a range of topics related to race and blackness in Ameri ...more
Liz
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"We were eight years in power." That is a quote from South Carolina state congressman Thomas Miller, an African-American who was elected at the end of Reconstruction. He was highlighting the achievements made during Reconstruction, arguing against the disenfranchisement of black voters. They had built schools, established charities, educated the deaf and dumb, and built infrastructure. But his very argument was a threat to white supremacy. Coates quotes W.E.B. DuBois in his book: "If there was o ...more
Kyle
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, politics
I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

This book made me angry, sad, happy, ashamed, reminiscent, worried, optimistic, and anguished at different junctures. At times, I wanted to quit reading this book in disgust, at other times I could not read this book quick enough to absorb the knowledge being disseminated. Regardless of you race, gender, political affiliation, belief structure, or history, you should be able to at least glean some tangible amount of kn
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • What′s the Matter with White People? Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was
  • Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America
  • Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
  • I Can't Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street
  • One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy
  • March: Book Three (March, #3)
  • Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays)
  • Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment
  • The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race
  • The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism
  • The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6' 4", African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama's Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian
  • We Gon' Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation
  • The Underground Railroad
  • A Colony in a Nation
  • Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump's America
  • Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America
  • This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America's Middle Class
  • Nobody: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond
See similar books…
7,355 followers
Ta-Nehisi Coates is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Between the World and Me, a finalist for the National Book Award. A MacArthur "Genius Grant" fellow, Coates has received the National Magazine Award, the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism, and the George Polk Award for his Atlantic cover story "The Case for Reparations." He lives in New York with his wife and son.
“Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others.” 157 likes
“Every Trump voter is certainly not a white supremacist, just as every white person in the Jim Crow South was not a white supremacist. But every Trump voter felt it was acceptable to hand the fate of the country over to one.” 52 likes
More quotes…