TNC’s “Between the World and Me”

By now you’ve heard about Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new book, Between the World and Me.  I brought it up almost as an afterthought on Tuesday.  At the time, I was 100 pages in with just 50 more to go (it’s a short and quick–but not easy by any means–read), and I didn’t want to post about it until I had finished it and thought about it.

But now I’m finished, and I’m still at a loss.  I grew up in an interracial home in the Deep South (the only 100% “white” person in the family being my mom), and while I never believed that was enough to allow me to fully understand the tragedy of Black America, I did feel as though I had a window into that tragedy.  Well, after reading this book, I now understand quite clearly that the window I thought I was looking through was nothing more than a crack between two rotted boards.

There’s a lot of adjectives I could use to describe it–moving, powerful, shocking, unsettling–but after finishing it, the best adjective that comes to mind now is enlightening.  I had no idea the gulf between my and my siblings’  experiences of the world was so wide.  In private (I like to think) we are a family.  But, despite my naive assumption that that familial sphere extended into the public realm, it turns out the world conspires to rend my family apart.  And I’ve been so oblivious of that my entire life.

My nephews and niece stayed with us all of last week.  On the drive up from NC, I spent some time talking to them about current events in Baltimore while also attempting to reassure them that, no, the city isn’t nearly as bad as the news and outsiders try to make it.  That was it actually a pretty interesting and inexpensive place to live.  The rest of the time was spent at swimming pools, museums, ice cream shops, art fairs, and sporting events.  I tried to get the 13 and 10 year old into Thomas Pynchon and I lectured the 9 year old about eating the food we prepare for the entire family.  How would the week have gone if I’d read Between the World and Me before they’d visited?  Compound that with the thought of each of them getting The Talk from their parents, the same talk that TNC gives his son with this book.  I brought them into the mouth of the lion and tried to convince them that life here was normal (or as normal as it is all across the country).

There are reviews and discussions going on about this book right now.  Read the book yourself, and then engage.

  • Perhaps you’ve heard of this moron’s response?  Fuck David Brooks, and fuck the NY Times for giving this ass a platform.
  • Cornel West posted a response on The Facebook.  It doesn’t read as bad as the Observer wants it to read.
  • One of Deadspin’s writers picks out a couple of paragraphs at the end of book and claims it’s the most important part of the book.  This whole section in the book actually feels quite rushed and in desperate need for a deeper, more thoughtful treatment.  It felt more like TNC didn’t quite know how to end the book, and so he just decided to bring up climate change.  No, for me, the most powerful part is his son going to his room to cry when Michael Brown’s killer escaped indictment.

There’s so much more to talk about here, but, again, I’m still attempting to process this information and my feelings about this information.  So I leave it to you to get yourself a copy.  You can read it in a single afternoon.  Like I said before, it’s short and a quick read, but not an easy read.

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