I thought about the rating for this book a few different ways and for a few different extended moments. In addition, I also thought about whether I wanted to read this book at all. Now in 2021, especially after the election, I feel a little more emotional settled to process some of the thoughts and feelings I had during the course of this book. In addition, I think I’d read almost all these pieces as they came out or most of them. So for one, had my thoughts changed? Did I need to revisit most of them? What could or would still hold up?
Most of the pieces do hold up, and it’s especially good to revisit the three longest pieces here. But what makes this book great, is that Coates has revisited all of his old pieces, and rather than just update them, he provides personal and historical context for them. Sometimes this is necessary to trace his changing feelings, sometimes because the specifics of the vision and assignment needed to be fleshed out, and sometimes the content needs to be brought to bear on our specific reality. So while this is a book about moments during the Obama period, he’s brought them up to date to 2017. This makes them much more memorable.
Most importantly I think revisiting both the Bill Cosby essay (partly in light of the later emerging/bursting allegations and criminal trial) because of the ways in which the central conservatism contained in Cosby’s rhetoric, and how this provides some key insight into the Black Lives Matters protests of this past summer help to show the rhetorical bind those protests found themselves in, and the case for reparations because it’s a more fully revisiting of the history of that bind.