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Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Hailed by Toni Morrison as “required reading,” a bold and personal literary exploration of America’s racial history by “the most important essayist in a generation and a writer who changed the national political conversation about race” (Rolling Stone)



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The Bottom Line

From one of the country’s most esteemed writers on race, Between the World and Me offers a powerful new framework for looking at America’s past, one that was built on the backs of black bodies, as well as an expression of tender concern by a father for his adolescent son.

I. Introduction

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.”

II. A Life of Constant Fear

III. Getting Schooled

IV. From Fear to Rage

V. “Twice as Good” Doesn’t Guarantee Success, or Safety

VI. The Past Is Present

VII. America Suffers From a Collective Delusion About Its History

The Takeaway

COMPLETE INSIGHT

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