BookBrowse Reviews The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Beautiful Struggle

A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates X
The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2008, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2009, 240 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Memoir. An exceptional father-son story about the reality that tests us, the myths that sustain us, and the love that saves us

The color of one's skin is irrelevant. We're all the same. America is striated with cultures, but they are, in the end, combined in the "melting pot." I have always believed, without hesitation or effort, that these statements and the ideas behind them are true. Blissful innocence? Perhaps. Is there anything wrong with these ideas? Maybe not. But are they realistic - are they possible amidst the intricacy of human families and their individual and collective histories and cultures? After reading Ta-Nehisi Coates's memoir, The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, I can not be sure that my own breezy confidence in the sameness of us all was not in some part a poor substitute for a more rational understanding of our multicultural nation.

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel compelled to reveal that I am white, female and fairly unexposed to the large urban centers of our country. Though I prefer to stay hidden behind my writing, I find it difficult to discuss this title outside of its connection to me, the individual reader, for the book is all about personal and collective identity. As I turned the pages of Coates's narrative, I could not help but interpret this tale of a tenuous and risky childhood, filled with posturing and calculating, daydreaming and confusion, against my own childhood days. While I bicycled safely alone through my small town neighborhood, Coates was strategizing survival tactics for getting to and from school. While I felt secure and proud to learn about my forefathers arriving in the "New World" seeking freedom and open land, Coates was grappling with slave names and the weight of oppression. Where only laziness or a lack of ability might have stood in my way on the road to academic achievement, Coates faced a multitude of challenges thwarting his scholastic progress, including the base fear of being marked as weak, thereby opening the door to abuse and loss of respect. Though I grew up less than two hours from Coates's Baltimore, our worlds look nothing alike. And to me, that is the value of memoir: the chance to see through someone else's eyes. This book affords that rare opportunity.

Coates's description of his growing years in drug and violence-riddled West Baltimore is simultaneously ugly and beautiful – a glimpse into a city of barely controlled chaos and a portrait of a father clinging and dragging his children into safe adulthoods. The author's honesty is unflagging, revealing flaws in himself just as easily as those he observes in his father, brother, teachers and friends. His language flows from the page to the ear, producing a silent chorus of hip hop rhythms, street speak and African tribal beats in the mind. Though the book's vernacular may not be familiar to everyone – I confess to needing a dictionary for many terms and phrases – Coates's relaxed and rhythmic language creates a lasting impression. The Beautiful Struggle is a compelling blend of family memoir and social commentary, a book worthy of a wide audience.

Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie

This review was originally published in June 2008, and has been updated for the January 2009 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Killers of the Flower Moon
    Killers of the Flower Moon
    by David Grann
    Voted 2017 Best Nonfiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    The long, sorrowful list of injustices done ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dry
    The Dry
    by Jane Harper
    Voted 2017 Best Debut Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    After receiving a letter from his childhood...
  • Book Jacket: Little Fires Everywhere
    Little Fires Everywhere
    by Celeste Ng
    Voted 2017 Best Fiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    Small towns, big drama. Acclaimed author ...
  • Book Jacket: La Belle Sauvage
    La Belle Sauvage
    by Philip Pullman
    Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

"Electrifying . . . as beautiful and as icy as the Minnesota woods where it's set."
—NPR

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Story of Arthur Truluv
    by Elizabeth Berg

    An emotionally powerful novel from New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Autumn

Autumn by Ali Smith

One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, and a Man Booker Prize Finalist

Enter

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay: $400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.