Synopses & Reviews
Paul Coates was an enigmatic god to his sons: a Vietnam vet who rolled with the Black Panthers, an old-school disciplinarian and new-age believer in free love, an autodidact who launched a publishing company in his basement dedicated to telling the true history of African civilization. Most of all, he was a teacher, storyteller, and tactician, whose mission was to carry his sons through the shoals of inner-city adolescence—by any means necessary—and into the safe arms of Howard University, where he worked so that his kids could attend for free. Among his brood of seven, his main challenges were Ta-Nehisi, the spacey, overly sensitive nerd who needed to be equipped to survive his environment, and Big Bill, the charming hustler who took all too easily to the temptations in the streets. The Beautiful Struggle
tells the story of their divergent paths through a turbulent decade and their father’s steadfast—if sometimes eccentric—schemes to keep them from failing.
Ta-Nehisi Coates combines a beautifully rendered evocation of the terrors and wonders of growing up in Baltimore in the 1980s—the age of crack, when murder rates hit historic highs, but also an era when the black community improvised the resources with which to save itself—with a humorous and affectionate portrayal of a family led by a maverick patriarch. Like James McBride’s The Color of Water, Coates’s memoir offers an original take on the eternal but beautiful struggle between parent and child.
An exceptional father-son story about the reality that tests us, the myths that sustain us, and the love that saves us.
Paul Coates was an enigmatic god to his sons: a Vietnam vet who rolled with the Black Panthers, an old-school disciplinarian and new-age believer in free love, an autodidact who launched a publishing company in his basement dedicated to telling the true history of African civilization. Most of all, he was a wily tactician whose mission was to carry his sons across the shoals of inner-city adolescenceand through the collapsing civilization of Baltimore in the Age of Crackand into the safe arms of Howard University, where he worked so his children could attend for free.
Among his brood of seven, his main challenges were Ta-Nehisi, spacey and sensitive and almost comically miscalibrated for his environment, and Big Bill, charismatic and all-too-ready for the challenges of the streets. The Beautiful Struggle follows their divergent paths through this turbulent period, and their fathers steadfast effortsassisted by mothers, teachers, and a body of myths, histories, and rituals conjured from the past to meet the needs of a troubled presentto keep them whole in a world that seemed bent on their destruction.
With a remarkable ability to reimagine both the lost world of his fathers generation and the terrors and wonders of his own youth, Coates offers readers a small and beautiful epic about boys trying to become men in black America and beyond.
This powerful memoir about coming of age in inner-city Baltimore during the cracked-out 1980s is written with a stunning poetic awareness and gorgeous immediacy (James McBride, author of "The Color of Water"). (Memoir)
About the Author
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a former staff writer at The Village Voice and Time and has contributed to The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, O, and numerous other publications. He lives in New York City.