The Beautiful Struggle

May 20, 2008 at 04:00 AM EDT

It once seemed like every male memoirist of color needed a CV featuring prison time and drug addiction. Ta-Nehisi Coates (a former TIME staffer) sidestepped both, but his The Beautiful Struggle is as gripping as Piri Thomas’ classic Down These Mean Streets. He reconstructs his formative years in Baltimore, focusing on his complicated family life (overseen by his dad, a strict, autodidactic former Black Panther) and the often violent rites of passage he endured as a teen. Coates’ story about surviving adolescence and getting into college may seem familiar, but his poetry-laced, high-wire prose crackles. A-

The Beautiful Struggle

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The Beautiful Struggle

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