Politics and Prose

I'm always one of the last to follow a trend. My friends affectionately call me the "anti-hipster," in that I watch movies or read books well after everyone else has. That's why I only just read Between the World and Me, from Ta-Nehisi Coates, which, after its summer release, was immediately met with wide acclaim. Critics praised it; Op-Eds couldn't write enough about it. But there I was, nearing the end of the year without having read it.

Then, Between the World and Me was named the National Book Award winner, giving it the stamp of approval for me to give it a chance.

I started the book a day later and couldn't put it down. I read it in two days. Granted, it's only about 150 pages. Still, it reads like poetry.

The premise of the text is that Coates  is writing a letter to his son, a young, African-American male, instructing him on how to navigate a world in which the odds seem stacked against him. Coates recounts his own childhood and young adulthood, surviving a rough West Baltimore neighborhood and seeing one his friends die at the hands of police.

Most of the book is a pill incredibly tough to swallow. For, if you're like me, you came up in a family which always provided a full bookshelf and summer calendars packed with enriching trips and camps.

Mr. Coates did not. And the chilling theme throughout the book, that he is an outsider looking in, that there is a gulf between him and the world, sticks with you well after the last page.

This hasn't been my favorite book of the year. But it's definitely been the most important I've read. A key theme of my blog posts is the intermingling of current events and nonfiction books. Between the World and Me tackles head-on one of the driving issues of this year: race relations. For that reason, I strongly suggest giving it a go to better understand 2015.

Annie Jones1 Comment