I consider myself fairly (very) liberal and open-minded which for me includes having a broad understanding of issues in America today, including the prevalence and pervasiveness of racism as it relates to being black in America. Obviously as a white woman my experience is one dimensional, and I know that I cannot really understand what it is to walk in the shoes of a black person in America. This book though, this book. Wow. If anything can really show white people what it is like, this is it.
Coates has written an incredible book. Using the format of writing a letter to his son, he gives a thorough (though short, good selling point) telling of his own experiences as a black man in America, but also weaves in incredibly well-researched history and current events. This book is a triumph of true journalism in that you definitely get a feel for who Coates is, as he is the storyteller, but the facts are at the forefront of his narrative.
This was the July book club pick for the ANUW (Association of Northwestern University Women) book club and I am so glad it was. We had a great discussion and I think each of us left with just a little more understanding of our place in the world, this world, in this time period.
If you are looking for a “now here is what we can do to fix racism” upswing, well, this isn’t that. Coates paints a bleak portrait because, well, things are bleak. But only in understanding the explicit, and more insidious, implicit roles that we (in this case, white people) play is there any hope.
This book absolutely has the capacity to set people off, but the beauty of it is that at the end of the day, this is a letter to his son, so from that viewpoint, Coates is (hopefully?) given more latitude by people who would be turned off by his frankness. I really think every human person in America should read this book, and I will be suggesting it ad nauseum, in the hope that just one person’s mind could be opened juuust a little wider.