Helloo! I’m here with another review of a book I’ve just finished a few minutes ago : Between the World and Me. Information still very fresh! The last review was of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and on the cover of that book was a quote from Ta-Nehisi Coates and the name sounded very familiar. Why? Because I’ve had “Between The World And Me” in my TBR for ages but I kept postponing reading it! Since the book is pretty short, I’ve finished it quite fast. Faster than I should have because WOW! Before explaining the “WOW”, time for a quick intro!
BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME
Published July 14th 2015 by Spiegel & Grau
SYNOPSIS: In a series of essays, written as a letter to his son, Coates confronts the notion of race in America and how it has shaped American history, many times at the cost of black bodies and lives. Thoughtfully exploring personal and historical events, from his time at Howard University to the Civil War, the author poignantly asks and attempts to answer difficult questions that plague modern society. In this short memoir, the “Atlantic” writer explains that the tragic examples of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and those killed in South Carolina are the results of a systematically constructed and maintained assault to black people–a structure that includes slavery, mass incarceration, and police brutality as part of its foundation. From his passionate and deliberate breakdown of the concept of race itself to the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, Coates powerfully sums up the terrible history of the subjugation of black people in the United States. A timely work, this title will resonate with all teens–those who have experienced racism as well as those who have followed the recent news coverage on violence against people of color. (from Goodreads)
THOUGHTS: I don’t know if It’s okay for me to talk about America’s political world but I can’t hide that after Trump being elected as president (which was a big surprise to me), I was even more interested about knowing what it was like to be part of a “minority” in America. Especially one that Trump wanted to “destroy”. Or not exactly a minortity, just a part of the community who’s still fighting to just fit in. As a Moroccan, I have no idea whatsoever about what it’s like to live in America. Let alone to live in America while being black! With this book, I won’t say that I now know what being black feels like but I will say that I’ve learned, it was very eye opening.
I very much liked how this book was written: in a series of letters from the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates to his 15 year old son as somewhat of a warning and a guide about his inheritence as a black boy in America. What’s interesting is that Ta-Nehisi Coates doesn’t make the letters sound like they were meant for a book so they just sound like honest father-to-son letters which is a bit more intimate and personal which, in my opinion, gives more meaning to the whole thing/message making it more powerful, if you know what I mean.
The writer talks about his own experience of being black in the United States and goes on depicting some of his childhood memories. He talks about his family, his friends, his neighbors and how he went on dealing with all of his fears that started from the beginning of his life and how he was looking for ways to just protect his body from being taken over by the “others” may it be in the streets or at school and how he was trying to understand the “problem” of race in general. The writer sounds so witty, intelligent and definitely knows what he’s talking about. He believes that the American Dream is, in a way, what made one group powerful over the others. He also believes that all of the violence that black people encounter in America isn’t just a mistake but something that’s part of the system, part of the “Dream” just like schools are also trying to uphold white supremacy.
It was a painful read that gave me some pictures that just didn’t look right to me because I still can’t see why someone has to be different because of his skin color or because of anything really besides who he really is, from the inside. And still, no violence can be condoned, ever. I can’t see why but sadly, this is “part of the system”. As we start to know more, whether it’s from reading or from just looking up things, we begin to see that the big things that we are all so proud of or all so happy to be part of (The American Dream, for example) are built upon the violation of so many people from the “lesser class”, the “lesser race”… Ta-Nehisi knew perfectly how to transfer all of his feelings and emotions to the reader and even though we can’t say that just by reading, we know a 100% how it feels like to be black as I said earlier but it kind of punches you in the gut (expect that while reading it) and open your eyes on the situation a bit more. It was one of those books that made me feel like I should be doing more to help. I strongly encourage you to pick this book up as it is essential and important. I will leave here some quotes from the book that I’ve enjoyed and I will say one more thing. Hopefully, racism won’t still be something to fight against in the years to come. Hopefully, we won’t get to see more atrocities resulting from the overuse of power. I hope you’ve enjoyed this review, thanks for tagging along!
“The birth of a better world is not ultimately up to you, though I know, each day, there are grown men and women who tell you otherwise. The world needs saving precisely because of the actions of these same men and women. I am not a cynic. I love you, and I love the world, and I love it more with every new inch I discover. But you are a black boy, and you must be responsible for your body in a way that other boys cannot know. Indeed, you must be responsible for the worst actions of other black bodies, which, somehow, will always be assigned to you. And you must be responsible for the bodies of the powerful — the policeman who cracks you with a nightstick will quickly find his excuse in your furtive movements. And this is not reducible to just you — the women around you must be responsible for their bodies in a way that you never will know. You have to make peace with the chaos, but you cannot lie. You cannot forget how much they took from us and how they transfigured our very bodies into sugar, tobacco, cotton and gold.”
“Struggle for the memory of your ancestors. Struggle for wisdom. Struggle for the warmth of The Mecca. Struggle for your grandmother and grandfather, for your name. But do not struggle for the Dreamers. Hope for them. Pray for them, if you are so moved. But do not pin your struggle to their conversion.”
“Americans believe in the reality of “race” as a defined, indubitable feature of the natural world. Racism – the need to ascribe bone-deep features to people and then humiliate, reduce, and destroy them – inevitably follows from this inalterable condition. In this way, racism is rendered as the innocent daughter of mother nature, and one is left to deplore the middle passage or the trail of tears the way one deplores an earthquake, a tornado, or any other phenomenon that can be cast as beyond the handiwork of men.”
“There is nothing uniquely evil in these destroyers or even in this moment. the destroyers are merely men enforcing the whims of our country, correctly interpreting its heritage and legacy. this legacy aspires to the shackling of black bodies. it is hard to face this. But all our phrasing – race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy – serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that is dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth, extracts testicles. You must never look away from this. you must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.”