Toni Morrison has said that Ta-Nehisi Coates, national correspondent for The Atlantic, fills “the intellectual void” that has plagued her since James Baldwin’s death nearly three decades ago. Between the World and Me, Coates’ riveting and gorgeously rendered memoir-meets-manifesto, fulfills that high praise.
Framed as a letter to his son, Coates details his rough childhood growing up in Baltimore and his intellectual awakening at Howard University, his “port in the American storm.” The book is a fine, even remarkable, personal history, but its import lies in how Coates uses his experiences to discuss systemic racism and social injustice in America. Using lyrical prose (he calls good intentions “a hall pass through history”), Coates adapts his reporting prowess to explore the fear that drives African-American communities, while contextualizing modern events with history. A work that’s both titanic and timely, Between the World and Me is the latest essential reading in America’s social canon. A