Summary and book reviews of Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and Me

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates X
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Jul 2015, 160 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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.

I.

. . . we sprawl in gray chains in a place full of winters when what we want is the sun

Amira Baraka, "Ka Ba"

Son,

Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body. The host was broadcasting from Washington, D.C., and I was seated in a remote studio on the far west side of Manhattan. A satellite closed the miles between us, but no machinery could close the gap between her world and the world for which I had been summoned to speak. When the host asked me about my body, her face faded from the screen, and was replaced by a scroll of words, written by me earlier that week.

The host read these words for the audience, and when she finished she turned to the subject of my body, although she did not mention it specifically. But by now I am accustomed to intelligent people asking about the condition of my body without realizing the nature of their request. Specifically, the host wished to know why I felt that white America's progress, or rather the ...

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 $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!
  • award image

    National Book Awards
    2015

  • award image

    Indie Booksellers’ Choice Awards
    2016

Reviews

Media Reviews

The New York Times
Mr. Coates's expressionistic book is a sequel of sorts and a bookend to The Beautiful Struggle, his evocative 2008 memoir of growing up in Baltimore, the son of a Vietnam vet and former Black Panther - as compelling a portrait of a father-son relationship as Martin Amis's Experience or Geoffrey Wolff's The Duke of Deception, and a showcase for Mr. Coates's emotional reach as a writer and his both lyric and gritty prose.

The Washington Post
Brilliant . . . [Ta-Nehisi 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 Guardian (UK)
I admired how Coates refrains from outright condemnations of the American experiment, wanting to wrestle with it rather than destroy it. Throughout he resists the urge to tie up these ugly complexities with anything pat, delivering a perspective, in many ways, that you could call post-cynical.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Immense, multifaceted...This is a poet's book, revealing the sensibility of a writer to whom words - exact words - matter...As a meditation on race in America, haunted by the bodies of black men, women, and children, Coates's compelling, indeed stunning, work is rare in its power to make you want to slow down and read every word. This is a book that will be hailed as a classic of our time.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. The powerful story of a father's past and a son's future...Coates offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son's life...This moving, potent testament might have been titled Black Lives Matter.

Author Blurb Toni Morrison
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. This is required reading.

Reader Reviews

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 $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Ta-Nehisi Coates

If you liked Between the World and Me, try these:

  • Solitary jacket

    Solitary

    by Albert Woodfox

    Published 2020

    About this book

    A chronicle of rare power and humanity that proves the better spirits of our nature can thrive against any odds.

  • The World According to Fannie Davis jacket

    The World According to Fannie Davis

    by Bridgett M. Davis

    Published 2020

    About this book

    A singular memoir that tells the story of one unforgettable mother, her devoted daughter, and the life they lead in the Detroit numbers of the 1960s and 1970s.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
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 $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Divide Me By Zero
    Divide Me By Zero
    by Lara Vapnyar
    Divide Me By Zero begins with an encounter between the narrator, Katya Geller, a 40-something mother...
  • Book Jacket: Mighty Justice
    Mighty Justice
    by Dovey Johnson Roundtree , Katie McCabe
    What it's about:
    Dovey Johnson Roundtree was one of two lawyers who won the landmark case "Sarah ...
  • Book Jacket: The Seine
    The Seine
    by Elaine Sciolino
    Of the 24 members who reviewed Elaine Sciolino's The Seine: The River that Made Paris for BookBrowse...
  • Book Jacket: Fireborne
    Fireborne
    by Rosaria Munda
    Inspired by classical political theory and the French Revolution, Rosaria Munda's YA debut Fireborne...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The In-Betweens
    by Mira Ptacin

    "A fascinating history of an American community of Spiritualists... a fabulous read."
    —Elizabeth Gilbert
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Nothing to See Here
    by Kevin Wilson

    A moving and uproarious novel about a woman who finds meaning caring for two children with remarkable abilities.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Home for Erring and Outcast Girls

From the author of
Calling Me Home

An emotionally raw and resonant story of two young women connected by a home for "fallen girls," and inspired by historical events.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W G Up M C D

and be entered to win..

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 the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.