Published by Spiegel & Grau on July 14, 2015
Length: 3 hrs 35 min
Read synopsis on Goodreads
Buy the book: Amazon/Audible (this post includes affiliate links)
When I first sat down to write this review (before it was listed as a National Book Award finalist), I knew that it was going to be difficult. I wanted to get across how the book made me feel while acknowledging that, as a white woman, I’d never truly get it. I wrote (what I thought) was a fantastic review and sent it to my friend Jason to read because I knew he’d want to read the book. Jason, who I’ve known since 1997, is (in his words), my “gay black friend who doesn’t hold back the truth to spare my feelings.” So, when he responded with a blunt statement that my review was clearly written by a “privileged white girl” I was surprised. He told me that my review focused on color, not experiences, and that that was worse than pity. In short, I was doing the author a disservice by discounting his experiences in favor of color, and while they are not mutually exclusive, the author deserved better.
I was surprised, to say the least, but after further consideration I realized Jason was right. My review was mechanical – listing facts and a timeline of the author’s experiences instead of writing about how those experiences made me feel – so I decided to go back to the drawing board. After all, we already know that blacks are arrested, incarcerated, murdered, and discriminated against at disproportionate rates and you don’t need me to tell you that. So, here I am again for take 2. It’s hard to put into words how powerful this book is, but I will do my best.You need to read Between the World and Me by @tanehisicoates because yes, it is that powerful. Click To Tweet
But first, a little about the book. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is a letter from the author to his son on what it means to be black in America. It offers a stunning portrait of what this means for the author, from his college days to being a father, and what he knows it means for his son. Its breathtaking honesty will leave you wondering how you went through life without reading this book.
So how did it make me feel? Here’s how:
- Sad because the author experienced so many terrible things.
- Angry because he has to teach his son that, like him, his body is not his body.
- Inadequate because, even though I know there are injustices, I’m not doing enough to change them.
- Sickened because this last realization makes me question my self worth and humanity.
- Silly because here I am, a white woman, trying to explain to you what this book means and how powerful it is when what you should be reading is the book itself.
- Tearful because I don’t know which of the 100 reasons to be angry about first.
- Distrustful because I know that there is a problem and that the government isn’t doing anything meaningful to address the issues.
- Hopeful because a book like this exists, and surely that means something, right?
While I’ll never truly understand what it means to be black in America, I can draw from my experiences as a woman and a human to try. I know what it’s like to walk into a room and be uncomfortable or be underestimated or discounted because I’m a woman. As a human being, I can empathize with those who have been subjected to systematic injustices, and as a human I get to be angry. So while this is a book about color, it is also a book about how human beings treat other human beings, and no matter your background, any decent person can identify with that.
Recommended for: Everyone. EVERYONE.
P.S. This review has been approved by Jason.