I am currently reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book “Between the World and Me”, for which he just won the National Book Award in the non-fiction category. I’m still at the book’s beginning so have not had an opportunity to reflect but what I can say is that he has poured his soul into these pages. Coates’ writing is close, so close it feels as if I am holding his heart in my hand. He talks about what he knows, growing up black and male in Baltimore, America. This book is a letter to his son and begins as such. What is so heart-breaking is that Coates’ knows he can’t promise safety for his son. Protection of body has so far been a thread through the first fifty pages I’ve covered.
Coates’ National Book Award speech is just as direct and close as his writing as he recounts the death of his friend Prince Jones, who was killed by a police officer who claimed mistaken identity. Coates states that 15 years ago when his friend was killed, there wasn’t anyone recording what happened. “I’m a black man in America. I can’t punish that officer, Between the World and Me comes out of that place. I can’t secure the safety of my son…”
The quote from his speech that stays with me is this:
“At the heart of our country, is the notion that we are ok with the presumption that black people somehow have an angle, somehow have a predisposition toward criminality.”
Coates is a gifted and hardworking wordsmith. Hardworking because every writer knows, this beautiful language is a process of rewriting, sifting and rewriting again.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, feelings and words with us Ta-Nehisi, and congratulations for a well-deserved award.