Recently, I finished reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It’s a short book and reads fast. A letter to his son, Coates’ voice is intense and direct.
I’m still processing Coates’ message. I admit that I find it distinct from my own life experience, a view of America and the world rooted far from my own. Where I grew up in largely homogenous communities, often in rural parts of the west, Coates is a child of the black inner city of the coast. His book is a personal narrative, a recasting of American history as resting on the backs of African slave labor, the sting and oppression which has never quite left our country, the plunder of which continues to bolster the children of our oppressor ancestors.
The son of a minority religious group–at least until I moved to Utah–there are moments when I can sympathize with the affinity he found at Howard University, a place where he finds for the first time the books to explain his culture, his past, his history, and a multimillennial explanation of the oppression of the African race. Like many of us, he begins to discover that he can become something more, that the ability to write taught him by his mother can become a tool for an inquiry into the world. With this…coming of age?…in the world during college I am able to find some empathy, for I too found people who understood me for the first time when I left home to attend college. But it is a tenuous connection. Coates story remains, for me, almost an anthropological look into a world that is very, very different from my own. It is familiar and yet alien.
And so I’m still processing it.
Have you read Between the World and Me, yet? What was your experience?
If not, have you heard of the book and intend to read it?