A few weeks ago I was watching t.v. and they did an interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates where he talked about his new book, Between the World and Me. I was struck by some of his thoughts, ideas and mostly his life experience. I quickly ordered the book and it moved to the top of my “must read” pile. The book is written to his son. A Father’s letter to the son he loves and cares for deeply that we are privileged to have the opportunity to read and share. He is open and honest about his lack of a relationship with the church (or even God) and yet acknowledges the strength he has witnessed others draw from their faith. What impressed me most about the book is his brutal honesty. His experience has not been my experience and it helps me grow to spend time with others who share a different experience, perspective, outlook on life. I am thankful he has allowed all of us to read the words he shares with his son.
Below is my more “formal” review of his work.
Coates’s book is both easy and painful to read at the same time. His skill as a writer and the way he blends personal narrative, words of instruction to his son, American history, and the experience of men and women who are seen as “not white” into a common thread make this work easy to read. It is enjoyable, easy…even fun to read the work of someone who understands how to use the English language to communicate with passion and energy. Yet at the same time this is one of the most painful books I have read in a long time. As Coates speaks to his son we are invited in to hear words of warning, concern, pain and enlightenment as he shares the burdens carried by many men and women of color. There were times I wanted to put the book aside…denying the reality of what he wrote about. At times I wanted to take the book and push it into the hands of people who I have journeyed with asking, “and what are we to do about this?”
While I respect his perspective and can understand how he would have arrived at the place he finds himself I cannot disagree more with his apparent lack of belief in or hope for transformation through faith. He is pretty clear that for him church represents a weakness or a denying of the reality of human suffering under racism and a “fairy tale type” belief that things will be better “someday”. Again, I can understand how he would have arrived at this place in his journey, yet I could not disagree more. “Life to the full” is the gift of Christ. It is a gift for the here and now, and for the eternal. Learning to move with Holy Spirit power is what gives me hope that we can / will overcome the evils of this world (some of which he writes and shares so eloquently) and eventually see healing of body, mind and soul.
This should be required reading for every Deacon / Elder board of a church concerned about issues of equality, or working to understand people who have a different life experience than our own. It is one of the books on my shelf that will be pulled off a few years from now and re-read…there is much to learn from the open, honest sharing within the pages.