Saturday, August 29, 2015

Short Review of Between the World and Me

I read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates in one sitting.  It was a decent book.

Photo of Book: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
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:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2001/0106.coates.html

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.

Ta-Nehisi Coates
Coates

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.




3 comments:

ramontrane said...

Great book, Max. I've just finished it a couple of weeks ago. So current and from the soul. There's movement and we'll be witness and participants.

ramontrane said...

On the other hand, I have the same feelings when finished the book. There is a void. Although, he is talking from a Black perspective and from a background that it's not the same for every single Black person in the US, but it's a voice that it's needed and invite the reader to reflect from s/he own reality or perception of it.
I agree with you that it's a book with some limitations but it should be in our library (I mean our personal one) or simply leave it in the MAX or in those little libraries that are now more visible on the streets, so another person can read it and share it at the same time.
Thanks for sharing your review.
Nos vemos, bro.

Max Macias said...

Those are all great points!

I am glad he wrote the book and do feel the growing movement!

Cuidate hermano!

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