Between the World and Me: A book by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Featured Image: The Atlantic

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Have you ever felt fearful of your body growing up? Have you ever felt unsettled with your own identity? Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates talks about the apprehensive state in which he grew up in his book, Between the World and Me. He confides all his intimate concerns, worries and agitations to his son through this book. This book is a letter from a Black father to his son, a letter which accounts for all the issues he had to go through growing up, from being raised in a ghetto to studying at Howard and finding his identity at Mecca.

He predominantly addresses Howard University as “Mecca” because the university is known for its enormous Black student body. He talks about coming to terms with his African-American identity and shares stories from his younger days with his son. The message he wanted to convey to his son: this is what makes the narrative so powerful and this is what draws the readers to the book.

Coates talks about how he felt distant and alienated from the rest of the world growing up. How the perfectly mowed lawns and silk-stocking houses made him feel excluded, and all the glamour and wealth was something beyond his reach in a faraway universe in the cosmos. The beautiful metaphors Coates uses in this book to depict his concerns, thoughts, and worries cuts through your skin and makes you realize how unaware one can be of the struggle. Coates explains the chasm between the world and him, people who are living in the same plane.

The narrative Coates uses in this book is so powerful and poignant. I needed a few days to myself to gather my thoughts.  I believe until and unless you are aware or have read about the struggles of those who are struggling, you can never bring a change. After reading this book, I could empathize with the author, his struggles, his concerns. This is very important if you want to bring a change. Educating yourself is the first step. Before you take to the streets to protest, you need to make sure you are not being a racist behind closed doors, in the privacy of your homes. This is why educating yourself is very important to ensure that you are not subconsciously perpetuating the same things. This is a book I believe everyone should read.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Between the World and Me:

 “But race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming ‘the people’ has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy. Difference in hue and hair is old. But the belief in the preeminence of hue and hair, the notion that these factors can correctly organize a society and that they signify deeper attributes, which are indelible — this is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white.” 

 

“You must resist the common urge toward the comforting narrative of divine law, toward fairy tales that imply some irrepressible justice. The enslaved were not bricks in your road, and their lives were not chapters in your redemptive history. They were people turned to fuel for the American machine. Enslavement was not destined to end, and it is wrong to claim our present circumstance — no matter how improved — as the redemption for the lives of people who never asked for the posthumous, untouchable glory of dying for their children. Our triumphs can never compensate for this. Perhaps struggle is all we have.”