Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Review)


In the 150 years since the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, the story of race and America has remained a brutally simple one, written on flesh: it is the story of the black body, exploited to create the country’s foundational wealth, violently segregated to unite a nation after a civil war, and, today, still disproportionately threatened, locked up and killed in the streets. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can America reckon with its fraught racial history?

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ attempt to answer those questions, presented in the form of a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son the story of his own awakening to the truth about history and race through a series of revelatory experiences: immersion in nationalist mythology as a child; engagement with history, poetry and love at Howard University; travels to Civil War battlefields and the South Side of Chicago; a journey to France that reorients his sense of the world; and pilgrimages to the homes of mothers whose children’s lives have been taken as American plunder. Taken together, these stories map a winding path towards a kind of liberation—a journey from fear and confusion, to a full and honest understanding of the world as it is.

Nope. Sorry. I didn’t like it. I wanted to. I really wanted to. Maybe I need to read something less angry and more coherent.
I don’t want to be on the receiving end of some horrid comments about how I just don’t understand because I’m white and therefore privileged. You don’t know what my life has been like so don’t judge.
OK, so my problem with this is that the author tries to simplify everything down to race. No social class, home situation, financial background, education level, just RACE. Some white folks have had really underprivileged lives. Some black people have had really fortunate lives. Not everything can be boiled down to skin colour.
A woman pushes your child out of the way, she might not be racist, she might just be in a hurry or your kid could’ve been in the way. You kick up a fuss and someone threatens the police, not because they’re racist necessarily, but because you’re acting like a prat.
Sorry but life isn’t as simple as black and white, there is a heck of a lot of grey (and other colours) in between.

Somewhere between 1 & 2 stars, because some good points were made, before spiraling off into a diatribe.

Finished on January 16th 2017


You can buy the book here if you wish:

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates



6 thoughts on “Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Review)

  1. I don’t think he boils everything down to race because it’s the only thing, but because it’s the first or foundational thing, at least in the United States. (I’m guessing from ‘prat’ that you’re perhaps British?) As one judge put it, slavery is our “original sin,” and since we’ve done nothing by way of reparations (something Coates also favors), we can’t move on to other issues (like the ones you mention).

    • I am British 🙂 And I totally understand what you’re saying. It’s just I found it a really frustrating read. I understand why he’s angry, I understand that racism is a massive problem, I just didn’t feel that his approach to expressing the problems was effective or helpful.

  2. Yes, I do agree with your general assessment of the book . I guess it is just the English Literature and Creative Writing teacher in me that had to be fair and balanced and at least point out some of the positive qualities in Coates’s writing too. I feel a book review is different that a report. A report just emphasizes your description of the plot, the examples of some important scenes or quotes . A review goes much deeper in the way you are critiquing the good and bad you felt about the story . The review may even compare the reader to other influential writers and their works . Finally, support your final opinion about the book as a whole , almost like a summary about the book you can prove with reasonable evidence from the book that made you feel that way. End on a positive note in saying what type of reader may enjoy this type of book . You may even draw from other opinions of the book.

    I have read some book reviews that will rip a book to shreds . Some feel this is how to get noticed and some newspapers still like the old fashioned critic like this to draw more people to buy books , buy theatre tickets, movie tickets, or even customers to restaurants . I have seen many on Goodreads like this! Then some are truthful and state two points of view but they do so with humor and the review is acceptable as a great read . I am still working on the best way to review . I really thank you for the opportunity to learn how you share your ideas . You are incredibly intelligent. I hope you don’t mind if I use a few modified ideas on your 5 star review system . I am adding some things but the system is great. Your reviews are a great size too ! Mine are always so long and that is a negative about adding everything .
    I love this website and I hope y’all are still having your podcast . I am redoing my blog right now . Time pay the bill and I want it to be more interactive .
    Thank you for your ideas … sincerely,

    • I’m pretty new to the reviewing thing so am learning as I go along. I really hate it when I don’t like a book, mainly because I feel bad for the author who must’ve spent so long writing it 🙂
      Help yourself to the star rating system I use… I was getting fed up of seeing so many 5 star reviews of everything… For me there has to be something special about a book to get 5 stars.
      Thanks for the advice. Like I say, it is a learning curve. I will definitely keep in mind what you’ve said.
      Happy Reading!!

      • Helly77 ~ With your reply back , I now feel like a teacher and like I have scolded someone who is doing very well on her own . Your blog is really awesome . I think you are great with ideas and putting your site together so that others are greatly interested. I always have trouble with the technical experience each year I decide to renew and change things up . Right now, I am at that stage again and I so embarrassed ! I have been trying to clean up many old posts and old photos . I also cannot decide on a theme. Meanwhile, I am deeply working on reading books and reviewing, meeting new authors with debuts, and we have a film festival in our little town in Oxford, Mississippi too! This town of my Alma Mater , Ole Miss , is always hopping ! I have a yearly calendar that never is boring. We have a great Indie bookstore here called Square Books ! They host events almost each day of the week. If you want some Southern Literary news or just opinions from a great Southern Book Store check out .

        I am going to keep learning from you. You really are AWESOME !

        Thank you for your help ,

      • i didn’t take it as a lecture at all… I like the fact that you took time to comment at all. I am learning as I go along, and what you said was really helpful.
        This Blogging thing lays you bare to the world, so doing it well is important.
        I’m looking forward to seeing your blog when you revamp it!!!
        Take care xxx

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