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July 2016: Biography Memoir > Between the world and me - 4 stars

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message 1: by Barbara M (new)

Barbara M (barbara-m) | 2300 comments I'm trying to get this in because I've been reading it since July 5! I've totally missed the discussion - mostly because I didn't want to read them until after I finished the book!

Moving and insightful, this is not a book I could sit down and read right through. It is a short book designed as a letter to the author's 15 year old son. Ta-Nehisi Coates is a black writer who uses this device to demonstrate to the reader what it is like to be a young black man in America today. He also describes what it was like to grow up black in Baltimore in the black neighborhoods. He also describes different periods of time when he came to new realizations about life, big turning points. The Mecca (Howard University), meeting is wife-to-be, the birth of his son, his trip to Paris.

There are parts of the book that flow smoothly, there are other parts that stop you dead and lead you to re-reading phrases and whole pages. I started taking notes but I took too many of them so I stopped after more than half the book. This short little book took me nearly a month to read. Granted, it was a busy month and I didn't have the time I usually do to sit and read. I had tried to listen to this on audio where I can squeeze in a book as I do other things but it just wouldn't work for me. Not all authors can read their books. In the beginning of the book, he talks about something his mother said and when he read it, he used the word "axed" instead of "asked" where in the book, he used the word "asked" but nowhere else did he use her "voice" when speaking of her so it felt off. I decided to stick with the print copy. I'm glad I did.

This book is memorable, there is pain and there is hope. In reading this, I was glad that I had read Malcolm X because I'm sure I would have had to run out and pick that up. I was confused by some of his phrasing and wording. He immediately talks about "the condition of my body" or "protecting my (or your) body" which is not terminology I would use or have ever heard used when speaking of yourself. For me, it separated the self from the body; perhaps that was his goal? He also talks about people who are white as people who "think they are white." He talks about the Dream or Dreamers, always in capitals and I finally realized that sometimes (not always, I don't think) he's talking about black people living and dreaming of the same things he assumes white people live. He might even be talking about MLK's "I've got a dream" philosophy which he believes does not work in that instant when young men like Trayvon Martin are shot down for wearing a hoodie and going out to by snacks. Later, nearly at the end, he connects the "body" as person/self with a quote from James Baldwin.

What a hard life, what great fear, young black men (and boys) carry that young white men do not. As a white woman, I feel like apologizing, I feel helpless that I don't know what I can do other than be angered by what I recognize as wrong. No people should be looked down on because of the color of their skin, the way they talk, the way the walk, their belief. How do we fix that? I didn't see that Coates had the answer either other than an awareness of your surroundings.


message 2: by Anita (new)

Anita Pomerantz | 6748 comments Really enjoyed reading your review and your perspectives, Barbara. This book was a hard one, and even harder to read alone. It's nice that so many of us shared in it this month.

I especially found the second to last paragraph of your review interesting because several of us were discussing what the "Dream" referred to and whether Coates was referring to black people, white people, or both when he referred to people who "think they are white". Not sure we reached a solid conclusion, but I agree with your assessment.


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