Drawing inspiration from The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin’s 1963 plea “to end the racial nightmare,” Ta-Nahisi Coates wrote Between the World and Me in the form of a letter to his 15-year-old son. The memoir is both a reflection on the author’s experiences growing up and an expression of hope for his young son’s future.
A national correspondent for The Atlantic and a MacArthur “genius” grant recipient, Coates has built a reputation for taking a raw and unapologetic approach to dissecting issues of race, culture, politics and American history.
In Between the World and Me, Coates writes about his childhood in a rough West Baltimore neighborhood and the transformative experience of going to college at Howard University. Throughout, he struggles with the question of “how to live in this black body,” having learned early on how easily a black body can be taken from you, with no consequences.
The book, hailed by people including Toni Morrisson and President Barack Obama, held the No. 1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list, won the National Book Award and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Morrison called it “required reading,” and the Times described the memoir as “a searing meditation on what it means to be black in America today.”