But all of us need myths And here out West, where we all had lost religion, and had taken to barbarian law, what would deb our magic What would be sacred wordsTa Nehisi Coates Beautiful Haunting Rythmic Pulsing with life, love, and the development of consciousness This is a memoir of a peer Ta Nehisi Coates is one year younger than me We grew up watching the same things through different lenses Watching the same play from vastly different seats His was a lens of black America in West Balti I was born a military brat, the son of a veterinarian and officer My father was born to parents who hadn t graduated from high school, but through grit and determination, and the help of the military, put himself through college and UC Davis veterinary school I was born into the privilege carved out of my father s grit.Ta Nehisi Coates Quotes 1 I was a black boy at the height of the crack era, which meant that my instructors pitched education as the border between those who would prosper in America, and those who would be fed to the great hydra of prison, teenage pregnancy and murder School as Wonder, or Way Out, New York Times MagazineBut even with my father s boot strap story, it is hard to look at my life as anything other than a collection of privilege There were times when I was teased, perhaps, because of my ears There were parents who were wary of their kids hanging out with a Mormon But all of those slights and scars of youth seem insignificant and trivial compared to Coates and his peers of black youth and their nervous mothers raised in West Balti in the 80s What I took for wind, in my life, was a breeze What I thought was a mountain, in my path, was only a hill Ta Nehisi Coates Quotes 2 The greatest reward of this constant interrogation, confrontation with the brutality of my country, is that it has freed me from hosts and myths Letter To My Son, The Atlantic But the fantastic thing about good memoirs and Coates memoir in particular is that you never feel outside the story His journey despite the distance of space, AND because of the proximity of time, and the universality of fathers and sons is infinitely relatable I understand his father, because I know my own father I understand his insecurities, his vulnerabilities and his fears, his transformation between oblivion and consciousness, because I have walked that path Not HIS path, but one that is etched through the same years So, despite the severe differences between a black boy in Balti and a white boy in Orem, Coates is able to paint a bridge of words that gives me access That allows me safe passage to another s core, a place to better understand him, but also better understand myself.Ta Nehisi Coates Quotes 3 I would always be a false move away I would always have the dagger at my throat The Beautiful Struggle Oh man, I just love him This is totally different from his blog twitter postings, but equally awesome along a totally different dimension I think the writing occasionally goes off the rails with some of the flowery, figurative language, but he s also trying to capture the essence of something that is hard to explain I really appreciate this as a meditation on black masculinity and the experience of trying to grow into a man in the world where Coates grew up Loved the super complicated relationships with brothers and fathers and classmates and girls Also found the historical stuff fascinating This is super personal but also really thoughtful about the broader implications of his own experiences I could use of this kind of thing Nowadays, I put on the tube and see the dumbfounded looks, when over some minor violation of name and respect, a black boy is found leaking on the street The anchors shake their heads The activists give their stupid speeches, praising mythical days when all disputes were handled down at Ray s Gym Politicians step up to the mic, claim the young have gone mad, their brains infected, and turned superpredator Fuck you all who ve ever spoken so foolishly, who ve opened your mouths like we don t know what this is We have read the books you own, the scorecards you keep done the math and emerged prophetic We know how we will die with cousins in double murder suicides, in wars that are mere theory to you, convalescing in hospitals, slowly choked out by angina and cholesterol We are the walking lowest rung, and all that stands between us and beast, between us and the local zoo, is respect, the respect you take as natural as sugar and shit We know what we are, that we walk like we are not long for this world, that this world has never longed for us Damn Really, really good Recommend. Everyone knows Ta Nehisi Coates from his recent Between the World and Me When I knew I d be going to Balti for the first time, I went looking for books that were than just crime novels there are a lot of them set in Balti, thanks, The Wire This story of growing up in West Balti was a great choice Ta Nehisi was born in 1975 and spent his childhood in West Balti His father was an integral part in his upbringing, although not always present Ta Nehisi has six siblings with four different mothers His father was involved in the Black Panther Party, and later would become a publisher of texts supporting that party and other topics surrounding black liberation referred to throughout this text as Knowledge with a capital K Coates often writes about his brother Big Bill as somewhat of a contrast to his own path and decisions, since Bill dipped closer into dangerous situations The greater world was obsessed over challenger But we were another country, fraying at the seams Most of Coates challenges were navigating the violence of his neighborhood while also being smarter than his schooling he would often get bored and simply not do the work He is three years older than me but he describes competing in the Olympics of the Mind, so I like to think of us on opposite sides of the country, practicing for those games Between the World and Me talks about his Howard University Mecca years, but this book shows how amazing it is that he even got in.The story is interesting, of course But the thing that makes this a five star read for me is the writing Coates writes so that every word counts Every shift in topic is vibrant in the language he uses to describe it, and several scenes are still clearly in my mind He is so talented and I will probably buy this to reread.I ll read an excerpt on an upcoming episode of Reading Envy, but in the meantime there is a decent excerpt on NPR. Along with Dreams from my Father, I want to add this to the Coming of Age Memoir unit I teach Ta Nehisi is a fantastic writing, and the book moves along with a lightness and wit I finished the book in under 24 hours that belies the seriousness of his subject.Stylistically, the book feels as if it were written effortlessly, yet is filled with clever and knowing asides that don t feel forced That Coates can retain the straight power of street slang while mixing in references to Dungeons and Dragons, then switch into academic prose, all in the same paragraph and make it all feel natural and unforced, is impressive Yes, it reflects his life and upbringing, but not everyone could make such disparate fragments of identity cohere.One reason I d love to add this book into the Coming of Age cannon is that while Coates is now a very successful journalist, he was strictly average growing up This might not seem like much of a selling point, but my problem with most memoirs is that even if they reflect the sort of world and struggles that my students are faced with, the protagonists themselves are usually extraordinary in some way as most authors, unsurprisingly are, since writing a book isn t what your Everyman does , and thus somewhat apart from my students Street memoirs tend to hit the two ends of the spectrum a genius and or artist honors student type has to survive the Harsh Realities of the Street and Escape, or b hard ghetto thug gang banger has some Enlightening Experience and Changes His Ways I love Malcolm X s autobiography and push it on all my students, but his is not an easy example to emulate, either in its depths drug dealing, gun toting pimp or heights overnight conversion to Islam, national Civil Rights leader Coates, on the other hand, is very much an everyman He s naturally smart but lazy, wants to save face and look tough but not much of a fighter and essentially a wimp He prefers comics and role playing games over gang banging, and really just wants to fit in Of course, much of his story is not everyman at all his father is a Black Panther running a publishing house devoted to forgotten black authors out of his basement, who fathers seven children with five different women What you get out of the story isn t a freak show of look at my crazy life or pity my suffering, but just an intelligent, average young black teenager trying to make sense of himself, his family, and America in the late seventies and early eighties, and who is saved by DD and Chuck D. I ve heard a lot of great things about Coates writing and enjoyed it in the Black Panther, Book 1 A Nation Under Our Feet graphic novel so I was eager to dive into this book However, I was a little underwhelmed His story is interesting but I struggled while reading It wasn t as engaging as I thought it d be I still want to give his other books a try as those are the ones I hear most about. Coates first book, written seven years before Between the World and Me, is a memoir of Coates childhood growing up in inner city Balti The Beautiful Struggle revolves around the relationship between Coates, his father, and his brother Big Bill Coates father, a former Black Panther turned independent publisher, is determined to see his children escape the streets and get them into Howard University Opposing him are the many forces plaguing the inner city and, often, his sons themselves Between the World and Me certainly drew heavily from Coates life, but it used that as a springboard to explore race relations in 21st century America on a large scale It was this mix of macro and micro perspectives, along with Coates gift for illuminating old, entrenched problems in a new and unique light, that made Coates second book such a powerful read for me The Beautiful Struggle is much of a standard autobiography memoir, and doesn t have the same scope As a result, I didn t find this book quite as engrossing, although memoirs are far from my favorite genre, so perhaps take this with a grain of salt.Still, as memoirs go, this is a good to very good one Coates father and Big Bill are fascinating figures, flawed but still eminently likeable Coates descriptions of himself felt honest and real I especially enjoyed when his childhood interest in Dungeons and Dragons and comic books bled into the narrative which reminded me at times of a nonfiction version of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Coates is a gifted writer, and even in his literary debut his talent is indisputable This is a lyrical, descriptive coming of age story, sprinked with nice moments of humor 3.5 stars, recommended. Extremely interesting material that never quite coalesces into either a clear statement or a good read One of seven children of a black nationalist father, Coates grew up in West Balti where he was consistently on the verge of washing out of the educational system entirely Although he ultimately makes it on one level this is a variation on the narrative of ascent in which a black protagonist acquires literacy and a limited degree of freedom Coates doesn t provide a clear picture of which parts of his story are of potential use to those seeking to address the broader problems facing at risk youth The structure of the book is episodic, jumping from moment to moment without finding a strong narrative rhythm Despite the problems, there s much of value here Coates portrayal of the emergence and evolution of hip hop culture and some other aspects of 80s and early 90s popular culture sparks a lot of memories Similarly, he provides a densely detailed, if not thoroughly processed, snapshot of the sort of black nationalist Afrocentric thought that elevates J.A Rogers and Marcus Garvey to heroic status.I wasn t clear on where Coates is located today, where his journey has taken him Quite possibly, that s a second book, but at least a bit of indication if only on the book jacket would have been useful. An Exceptional Father Son Story About The Reality That Tests Us, The Myths That Sustain Us, And The Love That Saves UsPaul Coates Was An Enigmatic God To His Sons A Vietnam Vet Who Rolled With The Black Panthers, An Old School Disciplinarian And New Age Believer In Free Love, An Autodidact Who Launched A Publishing Company In His Basement Dedicated To Telling The True History Of African Civilization Most Of All, He Was A Wily Tactician Whose Mission Was To Carry His Sons Across The Shoals Of Inner City Adolescence And Through The Collapsing Civilization Of Balti In The Age Of Crack, And Into The Safe Arms Of Howard University, Where He Worked So His Children Could Attend For Free Among His Brood Of Seven, His Main Challenges Were Ta Nehisi, Spacey And Sensitive And Almost Comically Miscalibrated For His Environment, And Big Bill, Charismatic And All Too Ready For The Challenges Of The Streets The Beautiful Struggle Follows Their Divergent Paths Through This Turbulent Period, And Their Father S Steadfast Efforts Assisted By Mothers, Teachers, And A Body Of Myths, Histories, And Rituals Conjured From The Past To Meet The Needs Of A Troubled Present To Keep Them Whole In A World That Seemed Bent On Their Destruction With A Remarkable Ability To Reimagine Both The Lost World Of His Fathers Generation And The Terrors And Wonders Of His Own Youth, Coates Offers Readers A Small And Beautiful Epic About Boys Trying To Become Men In Black America And Beyond This is the most incredible memoir I ve ever read It s as great as GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin or MAKES ME WANNA HOLLER by Nate McCall What makes this book so compelling, and impossible to put down, is not what Coates has to say about race in the abstract It s how honest he is about the specifics of his own life You can t help identifying with him, no matter what color you are, because he writes about how children feel about their parents in ways that are timeless and true He writes the best father son conflicts ever, and he makes the fear so real that when he describes parental discipline being meted out it s like a white knuckle suspense thriller He s absolutely honest about how much he hated and feared his father s discipline through most of his childhood, without ever losing sight of the obstacles his father had faced or the heroic effort his father was making just to raise sons who could survive in a racist society Given the excellence of the writing, I can t give this book any less than five stars But there were a lot of things that really grated on my nerves I ve listened to plenty of hardcore rap, and anti white posturing is nothing new to me But it s irritating to have a guy insist over and over that all white Americans are racist pigs, and then have the same guy turn around and with a straight face start telling you how awesome STAR WARS is Or LORD OF THE RINGS There were so many inane shout outs to stuff like Orcs and Jedi light sabers and Storm Troopers What was it supposed to prove At times I almost got the feeling Coates was pulling my leg, pretending to only know the dumbest side of mainstream white culture But it s not that funny after a while Because a film maker like George Lucas is as much a symbol of racism as Ronald Reagan or McDonald s The same thing applies to the historical revisionism in the name of black pride All through the book Coates keeps referring to Howard University as Mecca Never once does he call it by name He just calls it Mecca Is this supposed to be cute Howard University was founded by a white Union Army General named Otis O Howard He lost an arm in the Civil War fighting to save the Union and free the slaves not necessarily in that order After the war he joined the Freedmen s Bureau and helped found the first modern university for black Americans Now maybe Coates thinks he s just another white devil If so, he should make the case But just calling Howard University Mecca is a cop out It s like in World War One when the white super patriots wanted to call Dachshunds Liberty Pups and sauerkraut Liberty Cabbage because they hated Kaiser Bill so much I get the fact that to Coates General O O Howard is just another Kaiser Bill But what does that make George Lucas Or J.R.R Tolkien This was a brilliant book, but in the end it left me frustrated and wanting to know about how the author really thinks And maybe that was the point. Coates gift for wordplay is indisputable Moving, lyrical memoir.