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Between the world and me
2015
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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER &; NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER &; NAMED ONE OF TIME&;S TEN BEST NONFICTION BOOKS OF THE DECADE &; PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST &; NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST
 
Hailed by Toni Morrison as &;required reading,&; a bold and personal literary exploration of America&;s racial history by &;the most important essayist in a generation and a writer who changed the national political conversation about race&; (Rolling Stone)
 
NAMED ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL BOOKS OF THE DECADE BY CNN &; NAMED ONE OF PASTE&;S BEST MEMOIRS OF THE DECADE &; NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review &; O: The Oprah Magazine &; The Washington Post &; People &; Entertainment Weekly &; Vogue &; Los Angeles Times &; San Francisco Chronicle &; Chicago Tribune &; New York &; Newsday &; Library Journal &; Publishers Weekly
 
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation&;s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of &;race,&; a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men&;bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates&;s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son&;and readers&;the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children&;s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward. - (Random House, Inc.)

Author Biography

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic. His book Between the World and Me won the National Book Award in 2015. Coates is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. He lives in New York City with his wife and son. - (Random House, Inc.)

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AudioFile Reviews

A good performer makes you feel like you're privy to something memorable--a great one beckons you into his world and welcomes you as a necessary part of the work's success. Ta-Nehisi Coates's delivery of his own book is so memorable because the material is charged with emotion and a tone of self-disclosure. There's also a highly personal sense of connection between himself and his audience because of his frequent use of "you." The book may be directed to Coates's son, but the conviction of Coates's delivery underscores the importance of the race relations examined within its pages. N.J.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

BookPage Reviews

Audio: Good audios = great gifts

Powerful, provocative and deeply disturbing, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me should be mandatory listening. Coates reads his eloquent assessment of what it means to be black in a decidedly non-post-racial America, and it’s affecting to hear the controlled passion in his voice. Written as a cautionary letter to his 15-year-old son and wrapped in his recollections of growing up in Baltimore and going to Howard University, it’s also a meditation on the ingrained structural racism still present in our society. 

Early in The Story of the Lost Child, the last of Elena Ferrante’s much admired Neapolitan novels, she describes Elena, her main character, as having “a natural ability to transform small private events into public reflection.” Ferrante has perfected that kind of transformation in these four brilliant novels that consider two women, their lifelong friendship and competition, their very different ways of dealing with what limits a woman and what frees her. It is read by Hillary Huber.

Distinguished historian David McCullough has done it again. The Wright Brothers is the fabulously detailed, always riveting story of how Wilbur and Orville Wright taught themselves to fly and changed the world forever. Drawing on the brothers’ diaries, letters and private family correspondence, McCullough recreates their extraordinary achievement in full color, and he narrates in an appealing, let-me-tell-you-a-story voice that enhances his flowing, elegant style.

Elizabeth Alexander’s lyrically written, lyrically read The Light of the World is an elegiac love letter to her husband, Ficre, their harmonious marriage and their two teenage sons. It’s a moving, often raw, often joyful memoir of their life together until his sudden death just after his 50th birthday. An Eritrean, a painter and a chef, he was cherished by family and friends. Acclaimed poet Alexander worked through her loss and longing with words, words that now let us share her journey. 

TOP PICK IN AUDIO
You can look for grand themes and literary gestures in Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Purity, performed here by a trio of excellent narrators, or you can be swept into the intertwined plot lines that roil around the protagonists as they reveal themselves, their relationships, their very contemporary angst and their quest for identity. We meet young Pip (yes, a nod to Great Expectations), her wildly neurotic mother, the father she’s been searching for and a fabulous Assange-esque activist who leaks big secrets but harbors his own. Their backstories unfold with flashes of mordant wit as Franzen’s dissection of unhappy families reaches dazzling new heights. 

 

This article was originally published in the December 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Library Journal Reviews

Framed as a letter to his teenage son, Coates's (The Beautiful Struggle) account of race in America works as both memoir and meditation. The author explores several themes: the vulnerability of black bodies (the focus on the body borrowed from feminism), the "dream" (the product of those in America who "believe themselves to be white"), and the "Mecca" (Coates referring to his undergraduate experience at Howard University). It's not an optimistic book—the motives for hope and forgiveness on the part of black Americans are suspect, writes Coates, and the institutionalized racism built on white supremacy is portrayed as deeply ingrained in our heritage as a country. Most striking perhaps are the author's meditations on the frailty of the body and the fear that those who grow up black in America learn to feel for the safety of their bodies and those of their children—all made especially poignant by the author's atheism, which he contrasts with the sometimes inspirational history lessons that he was taught when young. The choice to have Coates read his own book works exceptionally well—his delivery is understated but powerful and gives a real voice to the anger and sadness behind the haunting lyricism of his writing. VERDICT An essential library purchase. ["This powerful little book may well serve as a primer for black parents, particularly those with sons, but also as a provocative read for anyone interested in a candid perspective on the headlines and history of being black in America. Highly recommended": LJ 8/15 starred review of the Spiegel & Grau hc.]—Victoria A. Caplinger, NoveList, Durham, NC

[Page 43]. (c) Copyright 2015 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Library Journal Reviews

In this extended open letter to his young son, Samori, Atlantic national correspondent and senior editor Coates (The Beautiful Struggle) reflects further on his unlikely road to manhood and escape from the maw of America's tradition—nay, heritage—of destroying the black body. Mixing memoir, discourse, and outcry, Coates details what it has meant and what it means to be black in America, especially what it has meant and means to be a black male. His review pays special attention to the American Dream amid the physically painful and exhausting realities of U.S. ghettos from slavery to the killing fields of Detroit, Chicago, and Baltimore, where he grew up living in fear. Pleading for his son to understand the struggle even as it shifts in time and place, Coates cautions against illusions that America's racism exists in a distant past that needs not be discussed. VERDICT This powerful little book may well serve as a primer for black parents, particularly those with sons. However, it is also a provocative read for anyone interested in a candid perspective on the headlines and the history of being black in America. [See Prepub Alert, 4/27/15.]—Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe

[Page 106]. (c) Copyright 2015 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Library Journal Reviews

Not for nothing is this book BISACed as memoir, history, and race and discrimination; Atlantic Monthly senior editor Coates (The Beautiful Struggle) looks at America's "long war on black people" not only to understand himself but to clarify the continuing role race plays in this country today.

[Page 56]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Reviews

In a series of essays, written as a letter to his son, Coates confronts the notion of race in America and how it has shaped American history, many times at the cost of black bodies and lives. Thoughtfully exploring personal and historical events, from his time at Howard University to the Civil War, the author poignantly asks and attempts to answer difficult questions that plague modern society. In this short memoir, the Atlantic writer explains that the tragic examples of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and those killed in South Carolina are the results of a systematically constructed and maintained assault to black people—a structure that includes slavery, mass incarceration, and police brutality as part of its foundation. From his passionate and deliberate breakdown of the concept of race itself to the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, Coates powerfully sums up the terrible history of the subjugation of black people in the United States. A timely work, this title will resonate with all teens—those who have experienced racism as well as those who have followed the recent news coverage on violence against people of color. Pair with Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely's All American Boys (S. & S., 2015) for a lively discussion on racism in America. VERDICT This stunning, National Book Award-winning memoir should be required reading for high school students and adults alike.—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

[Page 110]. (c) Copyright 2016 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Reviews

In a series of essays, written as a letter to his son, Coates confronts the notion of race in America and how it has shaped American history, many times at the cost of black bodies and lives. Thoughtfully exploring personal and historical events, from his time at Howard University to the Civil War, the author poignantly asks and attempts to answer difficult questions that plague modern society. In this short memoir, the Atlantic writer explains that the tragic examples of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and those killed in South Carolina are the results of a systematically constructed and maintained assault to black people—a structure that includes slavery, mass incarceration, and police brutality as part of its foundation. From his passionate and deliberate breakdown of the concept of race itself to the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, Coates powerfully sums up the terrible history of the subjugation of black people in the United States. A timely work, this title will resonate with all teens—those who have experienced racism as well as those who have followed the recent news coverage on violence against people of color. Pair with Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely's All American Boys (S. & S., 2015) for a lively discussion on racism in America. VERDICT This stunning, National Book Award-winning memoir should be required reading for high school students and adults alike.—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

[Page 110]. (c) Copyright 2016 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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