|Get this book for your library!|
So many people have already praised it for its great writing and incredible erudition. I felt really let down after reading his book because I was expecting so much more.
Mr. Coates is a good writer, but he is not a great writer. His prose flows and I believe he has found his own voice. However, the writing is not beautiful, nor is it creative or innovative in any manner.
In my opinion the most important aspects of this book are his insights on the black body. African Americans, after all, were considered products to be exploited for their value as slaves. Their (and latino) bodies are still used in such a way in the prison industry as explicated so brilliantly in Michelle Alexander's seminal work, The New Jim Crow.
He COMPLETELY neglects the fact that other ethnicities (besides black people) have race issues in the US as well. I wouldn't expect him to explicate on these issues, but to mention them at least would give his writing a much more well rounded analytic style.
I found Coates' story about his friend's death at the hands of the police to be distant and not too empathetic, except that the writer realized he was not safe. from the hands of the police either.
His article on Prince's death is a good piece of work:
He doesn't get into the fact that he was extremely lucky to have a family background that valued education. He has multiple generations of college graduates in his ancestry. This is a great thing, but not addressing educational disparities in the milieu that is the US today is a mistake and will lead to bad analysis.
He also makes France sound like an escape from colonialism--which it can't be--as it is and was one of the world's colonial powers.
I believe Coates is primarily a journalist, and that is good. This book is a good example of journalist non-fiction writing. However, I don't go looking for James Baldwin when I read nonfiction books by journalists.
I'm going to say that you should read this book and also buy it for your library though. It is an important book, and it is written in a journalistically accessible style.