by Stanley Delgado
Between The World And Me is the latest memoir by Te-Nehisi Coates structured as a letter to his son. In the letter, published 2015, Coates focuses on the struggle of black lives in America and the subtle battles he and his community have faced his entire life.
Coates probes deeply into his own memory and it’s this relentless honesty and questioning which gives this book its urgent feel.
Toni Morrison, an American novelist, professor, and social and political activist, claims that Between The World And Me is required reading and she is correct. Coates’ language creates the kind of microcosm that reveals the universal struggle shared by many; it is this kind of writing that can travel across all junctions of intersectionality and into the heart of society at large just in the same way that Catcher In The Rye or Invisible Man do.
Between The World And Me is very much a spiritual successor to James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, a book similarly styled as a letter and call-to-arms as well, and just as Baldwin’s work was told from a very specific point of place and time for black men and women, so is Coates’ book.
What defines Between The World And Me and makes it so important is its point of view, its voice: a contemporary voice, reared on hip-hop, movies, television, video games, and black philosophers alike, and who is also a father. It is this which gives Between The World its sense of now – the sense that this is happening outside your home, whether or not you lock the door or peek through the blinds.
Coates has succeeded in showing us the modern landscape for many black men and women – landscape that still considers black lives as inferior but in such an indirect and devious manner that when black people call attention to it, they are deemed as the “bad” ones who are not “thankful enough” to live in this day and age, as if a great force out there could take their freedom away at a moments notice.
Between The World And Me is a book entirely of current times. It is a work which has been long overdue considering that Coates is exactly what is needed today: a writer of today who understands that yesterday wasn’t so long ago.