Between the World and Me is written as a letter to the author’s teenaged son about the feelings, symbolism, and realities associated with being black in the United States. Coates, a native of Baltimore, draws from autobiographical details of his teenage life to sustain the theme of fear in bodily harm. He recapitulates the American history of violence against black people and the incommensurate policing of black youth.
The book has won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and it has been acclaimed by critics and recommended by bookstore staff. It’s Toni Morrison’s endorsement that decided my interest. She noted that Coates “filled an intellectual lacuna in succession to James Baldwin.” The book in fact is inspired by Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time in 1963.
The book, written in a bleak tone, will not exhaust all its possibilities in just one reading. It is a searing meditation on what it means to be black in America today. He “feared not just the violence of this world but the rules designed to protect you from it, the rules that would have you contort your body to address the block, and contort again to be taken seriously by colleagues, and contort again so as not to give police a reason.”
As I’m reading how Coates comments on the American Dream being no more than a white dream, I can’t help but think how the gays, in the sane light and and on account of the recent tragedy in Orlando, have been plundered socially and made to assimilate to the straight norms.
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