I’ve always been of the Reading Rainbow school of reading; “Take a look, it’s in a book.” Want to grow a garden? Better get the book. Feeling a little blue? Self-help book. World’s most strong-willed son? Book, book, book, (basically the whole parenting section). Whole country’s gone to hell, and I’m a white woman living in suburbia? What do I do? How do I make sense of this? I read.
I ordered this on the day Philando Castile was killed with a baby in the backseat. I devoured it, crying into my coffee at the table at 8:30am, but I haven’t been ready to review. Because beyond the subject matter, a black man’s letter to his son about being black in America, which was revelatory for someone in my corner of the world, there is no way I could ever string words together in a way to do Coates justice. This man is a WRITER. In Coates’ words, “the craft of writing as the art of thinking”. This book was heartbreaking and intelligent and thoughtful and brave and so brilliantly authored that it has taken me days to digest. I dog-eared more pages in this book than any in recent memory.
“… I feared not just the violence of this world but the rules designed to protect you from it, the rules that would have you contort your body to address the block, and contort again to be taken seriously by colleagues, and contort again so as not to give the police a reason. All my life I’d heard people tell their black boys and black girls to ‘be twice as good,’ which is to say ‘accept half as much.’ These words would be spoken with a veneer of religious nobility, as though they evidenced some unspoken quality, some undetected courage, when in fact all they evidenced was the gun to our head and the hand in our pocket. This is how we lose our softness.”
I can’t say that I can make any more sense of how to heal the racial problems in our country after reading this. But I can say that my privilege has been made even more clear to me. And I can say that I think we can’t begin to change and heal until we understand each other’s perspectives, and this is a beautiful place to start. I’d highly recommend it.
“I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world.”