2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction
|Essential reading on timely topics.
Sometimes a slim volume encompasses a huge narrative; this one certainly does. Between the World and Me is such an important book.
It is personal yet universal. And Ta-Nehisi Coates has a big heart. I wish everyone would read this. Recommended By Adrienne C., Powells.com
I could say that Between the World and Me, a piercing exploration of race in America, is a book that is timely and important. There's no doubt that it is. But it also has a purity and intensity that demands it be read. I cannot think of another book in recent memory so powerful, so alive, and so necessary. Recommended By Shawn D., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A bold and personal literary exploration of America's racial history by "the single best writer on the subject of race in the United States" (The New York Observer
"This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it."
In the one hundred fifty years since the end of the Civil War and the ratificiation of the Thirteenth Amendment, the story of race and America has remained a brutally simple one, written on flesh: It is the story of the black body, exploited to create the country's foundational wealth, violently segregated to unite a nation after a civil war, and, today, still disproportionately threatened, locked up, and killed in our streets. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all — regardless of race — honestly reckon with our country's fraught racial history and free ourselves from its burden?
Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates's attempt to answer those questions, presented in the form of a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son — and readers — the story of his own awakening to the truth about history and race through a series of revelatory experiences: immersion in nationalist mythology as a child; engagement with history, poetry, and love at Howard University; travels to Civil War battlefields and the South Side of Chicago; a journey to France that reorients his sense of the world; and pilgrimages to the homes of mothers whose children's lives have been taken as American plunder. Taken together, these stories map a winding path toward a kind of liberation — a journey from fear and confusion to a full and honest understanding of the world as it is.
Masterfully woven from lyrical personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me offers a powerful new framework for understanding America's history and current crisis, and a transcendent vision for a way forward.
"Powerful and passionate...profoundly moving...a searing meditation on what it means to be black in America today." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Brilliant...[Coates] is firing on all cylinders, and it is something to behold: a mature writer entirely consumed by a momentous subject and working at the extreme of his considerable powers at the very moment national events most conform to his vision." The Washington Post
"I've been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates. The language of Between the World and Me, like Coates's journey, is visceral, eloquent, and beautifully redemptive. And its examination of the hazards and hopes of black male life is as profound as it is revelatory." Toni Morrison
"A brilliant thinker at the top of his powers, Coates has distilled four hundred years of history and his own anguish and wisdom into a prayer for his beloved son and an invocation to the conscience of his country. Between the World and Me is an instant classic and a gift to us all." Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns
"I know that this book is addressed to the author's son, and by obvious analogy to all boys and young men of color as they pass, inexorably, into harm's way. I hope that I will be forgiven, then, for feeling that Coates was speaking to me, too, one father to another, teaching me that real courage is the courage to be vulnerable." Michael Chabon
"A work of rare beauty...a love letter written in a moral emergency, one that Coates exposes with the precision of an autopsy and the force of an exorcism." Slate
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, and numerous other publications. He lives in New York City.