Rebecca's Reviews > Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
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it was amazing
bookshelves: diverse, memoir-biography, non-fiction, staggering-brilliance-shelf

This spare, anguished letter from father to son exemplifies why Own Voices matter - in literature, in sport, in politics, in the arts.

By centering the text around violence upon the black body and the ultimate impossibility of "the Dream" for people who do not identify as white, Coates forces you to walk a mile in his shoes, in modern day America, in a way that is as immediate and viscerally comprehensible as a punch to the head.

At page 10 :

"When the journalist asked me about my body, it was like she was asking me to awaken her from the most gorgeous dream. I have seen that dream all my life. It is perfect houses with nice lawns. It is Memorial Day cookouts, block associations, and driveways. The Dream is treehouses and the Cub Scouts. The Dream smells like peppermint but tastes like strawberry shortcake. And for so long I have wanted to escape into the Dream, to fold my country over my head like a blanket. But this has never been an option because the Dream rests on our backs, the bedding made from our bodies."

While ostensibly a series of personal essays, Between the World and Me also functions as a warning to all to be conscious, to question, to not accept one story as the paradigm story.

At page 108:

"I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world."

At page 116:

"The changes [in my life] have awarded me a rapture that comes only when you can no longer be lied to, when you have rejected the Dream. But even more, the changes have taught me how best to exploit that singular gift of study, to question what I see, then to question what I see after that, because the questions matter as much, perhaps more than, the answers."

Reading Between the World and Me casts the many playing fields of privilege into a stark light. At page 125, Coates notes that during his first solo trip to Paris as an adult male:

"I remember thinking how much I would have loved for that to have been my life, how much I would have loved to have a past apart from the fear. I did not have that past in hand or memory."

Every person of colour who has ever been verbally abused, spat on, pushed, taunted or overlooked, will understand "the fear". If one is lucky, the fear only comes in brief flashes, small bursts of pain. But for some, like Coates, they breathe it, they live it; because they are always only a hair's breadth from complete annihilation.

In a truly empathy-depleted world, please read this book. Clearly, it doesn't properly capture the black female perspective (how can it?), but for those wanting to understand what it feels like outside the comfort zone - start here.
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