Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This is one of the most powerful books I’ve read in recent memory. I have never walked in the shoes of an African American young man and I was completely swept away by this story. I read it in one day – and it’s been a while since I’ve done that!

I’m pretty sure that I am not the intended audience for this author as this is thoughtfully written in a series of essays as letter to his son. I found out later that the author is a pretty big social media guy who my sons follow and I’m thinking young men like them were probably his intended reader. Or, you know, maybe I was. If I/we weren’t, maybe we should be. If you were to ask me, I think this story should be required reading for EVERYONE.

Chapters are based on his experiences, the enduring theme is violence. Specifically violence against the black body, which is explained as a tradition that is not examined, but rather explained away. It is not a failure of our American system, it is an intentional part of our system.

One of the most compelling stories in this book (for me), is when he explains the death of his friend who, although did all “the right things” (according to the norms of white society), was killed because he was only seen as a black man. It didn’t matter about his personality, his successes, his family; he was a threat as a black man.

My single complaint would be that he doesn’t really examine the black female. There were opportunities where he could have more fully added an analysis of the few female characters, but maybe that’s just for a different story. In retrospect, it may have taken away from his message.

I have told everyone I know that they should read this book. So far, I’ve only had three takers that I know of. I look forward to more of his ideas/works in the future.


Intellectual freedom letter

One of the things that I’m most passionate about is the freedom of speech.  I firmly believe that access to the written word should be one of our most fundamental rights. The written word, found in books, journals, magazines, websites, internet databases, etc. provides informative, enlightening and social discourse.  In the written word, there is power. Because it has the ability of making the reader see things through the eyes or minds of someone else, because it has the power to promote free thinking, because it has the power to persuade the reader to comprehend things differently. Information is power, and like all power there are those who want to control it.

I attribute my way of thinking back to my freshman year of High School. In my English literature class, the assigned reading was the Catcher in the Rye. Our enlightened Dominican sisters were revolutionary compared to the strict thinking of the administration in my Grammar school; they informed us that this was considered a banned book, one of the most challenged books, in fact, to date.  I always did enjoy reading and hanging out at the library and found out other titles that were banned. I started with Judy Blume, Harper Lee, Lois Lowry, the list seemed to be endless.

Books can be challenged by any person or organization, but in doing so, I believe that sometimes it has the opposite effect, wherein more people will want it. And I believe that is good. The problem lies in a few extremists that really want banned books banned.  So, even as a young person I would suggest books to friends, I read a lot, talked about it, and luckily, my parents have always been open-minded and progressive in their way of thinking. As soon as I had access to internet, I checked out the ALA website and always, ALWAYS buy something during banned books week just to support the cause and to bring attention to the subject.

Things are changing in this country, and all over the world, in terms of whom and what controls the sharing of creative works; whether it is writings, art, music… I fear that it is a freedom that we might actually lose. I encourage everyone to get informed and involved, and please, PLEASE, exercise your right to read freely.

A copy of an Intellectual freedom defense letter is attached here: