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 ratification 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.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a former staff writer at The Village Voice and Time and has contributed to The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, and numerous other publications. Coates has authored a memoir: The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, and runs a blog, Ta-Nehisi News, which was named one of Time magazine’s Best Blogs of 2011. He lives in New York City.