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Book Review: BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and MeBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am not a fan of this book. I thought it was more contrived and pretentious than delivered from an authentic place. I read it over a year ago for a book club I host. For that reason I am sharing my discussion notes in lieu of an in depth review.

LaCelia Book Club
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
January 11, 2016 Discussion

Who is he speaking to?
Addressed to his son, but that sense is lost almost immediately – yes/no?

“Your body can be destroyed.” (p 9)
“Other worlds where children do not fear for their bodies.” (p 20) **Interesting use of body rather than life.

Felt wrong to comfort you…. this is your country, this is your world, this is your body you must find some way to live within all of it.

Howard University: only Mecca he will ever need. (p 39)

Doesn’t believe in “God”. Compares Christianity to Western civilization (“their god”). But uses faith-based terminology: belief, The Mecca, calls his son his god

The body as the ultimate expression of being and existence.

“…burning and looting as Christian charity.” (p 101)
– deep-seated hatred of Christianity
– deep seated fear of living free as he is

Spirit and soul as body and mind are destructible/perishable (p 103)

“Dreamers” should be “Destroyers”
We all have dreams, but we don’t all destroy others for our dreams. (p 111)

What is acting, talking, and being “white?” (p 111)

Mrs. Jordan’s words sum up my response to this book. (p 113)

A book suggestion that came up during our discussion was to read The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. I read it. I was able to see what Coates was attempting to do, but it clarified that Between the World and Me was more an attempt at mimicry than authenticity.

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Quote: Four hundred years of black blood and sweat invested here in America…

Yesterday I spoke in London, and both ways on the plane across the Atlantic i was studying a document about how the United Nations proposes to insure the human rights of the oppressed minorities of the world. The American black man is the world’s most shameful case of minority oppression. What makes the black man think of himself as only an internal United States issue is just a catch-phrase, two words, “civil rights.” How is the black man going to get “civil rights” before first he wins his human rights, and then start thinking of himself as part of one of the world’s great peoples, he will see he has a case for the United Nations.

I can’t think of a better case! Four hundred years of black blood and sweat invested here in America, and the white man still has the black man begging for what every immigrant fresh off the ship can take for granted the minute he walks down the gangplank.

~ Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X

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Quote: “…all I’ve had in my life is nothing.”

Thurgood Marshall became a federal appeals court judge in New York, when he was begrudgingly named to the bench by President Kennedy after Marshall had spurned his offer of a seat on the federal trial bench some time before. In his refusal of the trial bench he stated, “My boiling point is too low for the trial court. I’d blow my stack and then get reversed.”

That initial offer had come from Robert Kennedy, who warned, “You don’t seem to understand, it’s this or nothing.”

“I do understand,” Marshall replied. “You don’t know what it means, but all I’ve had in my life is nothing. It’s not new to me, so goodbye.”



Thurgood Marshall and President Johnson
Thurgood Marshall and President Johnson, October 2, 1967 | Credit Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library


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Quotes: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Some inspiring words to help you get going…

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.