Memoir to His Son “Between the World and Me”
Readers of his work in The Atlantic (including his June 2014 feature The Case for Reparations) and elsewhere know Ta-Nehisi Coates for his thoughtful and influential writing on race in America. Written as a series of letters to his teenaged son, his new memoir, Between the World and Me, walks us through the course of his life, from his neighborhood in Baltimore in his youth, to Howard University—which Coates dubs “The Mecca” for its revelatory community of black students and teachers —to the broader Meccas of New York and Paris. Coates describes his observations and the evolution of his thinking on race, from Malcolm X to his conclusion that race itself is a fabrication, elemental to the concept of American (white) exceptionalism. Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, and South Carolina are not bumps on the road of progress and harmony, but the results of a systemized, ubiquitous threat to “black bodies” in the form of slavery, police brutality, and mass incarceration.