Between The World and Me is an astonishing work in a number of ways. It reveals the prejudice, bigotry and inequities of being a black American and with rare candour, it unmasks a society comprised of two worlds. One being the Dream World of white America offering privilege and opportunity, the other being the Black World where the black population understand they must be ‘twice as good’ to enjoy the same privileges and remain out of prison.
Also making this work exceptional is the style employed by the author, Ta-Nehisi Coates. The narrative takes the form of an open letter to his son, Samori, then fifteen years of age and is an impassioned plea to inculcate an understanding of the world he is about to enter as an adult. The direct and deeply personal narrative addressed to his son whom he seeks to protect from the world about is both confronting and powerful. No attempt is made by the author to shield his son from the harsh realities he is certain to face. Despite the shocking revelations of brutality and discrimination sanctioned by the policies and attitudes of authorities, the humanity of the author and the depth of his concern for Samori lends the narrative a compelling warmth. Against the odds, a sense of hope is evident throughout.
Ta-Nehisi Coates considers himself one of the more fortunate black Americans. He was raised in a loving family and given the opportunity to study. At Howard University, a centre regarded as the hub of African-American studies in the USA, the author came to understand the beauty of being black and of the intellectual and creative prowess that allowed black peoples in Africa and elsewhere to reach pinnacles of achievement. Here also Coates began to understand the long process of black impoverishment evident in contemporary USA and how aspirations to live the much vaunted American Dream have become a tool for white Americans to continue discrimination against the black population.
Ta-Nehisi Coates became a journalist and his experience as a feature writer is used extensively to provide the context of his letter to Samori. Many real-life examples are used to substantiate his compelling arguments concerning the fear of physical injury, the injustice dispensed by the legal system, the inequality evident in schools, the difficulties in finding work and the violent realities of the streets.
Between The World and Me is highly recommended.
Available from Amazon Books on Kindle.
Published in 2015 by Text Publishing, Melbourne, Australia.