This book is written as letter from the author, Ta-Nehisi Coates, to his son, Samori. He shared his experience of being brought up in the poor black neighborhood being bombarded with street violence, to his college days in Howard University and finally to the present of being a journalist and a great book writer.
The book is well written and reads like poems or songs, the quality that make reading this book so rewarding. It’s a relatively short but an impactful book especially when the violence between blacks and police gather lots of news these days. Personally, I don’t think I can truly understand the plight of the black Americans and the plundering of their bodies as I didn’t grow up here in this country under the same circumstance. But being an immigrant myself, I think I felt the same kind of helplessness as the author did: being discriminated and talked down when I was younger.
The author had a satirical view of the Dream, the peaceful changing of the society that Martin Luther King spelled many years ago. It’s the “Dream of acting white, of talking white, of being white.”
This is a good book if you’re not a black and want to know what it’s like to be brought up as a poor black in a bad neighborhood. I listened to the audiobook twice and re-read the physical book to enjoy the poetic prose throughout the book.
A few good quotes:
“Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered.”
“You have been cast into a race in which the wind is always at your face and the hounds are always at your heels… you do not have the privilege of living in ignorance of this essential fact.”
Part I: is about the author’s upbringing all the way to attending the Mecca, Howard University, a renowned college attended mostly by blacks.
The author describes the tragedy of Prince Jones, shot by a black police, Carlton Jones, from PG County (Prince George County), a notorious place where police brutality is rampant. Also, he went through his post-college years of getting a “writing” job after following his wife to Brooklyn, next to which is Manhattan where the “master of galaxy,” the rich white folks live.
He talked about his encounter with a white woman who pushed his boy in the subway and the subsequent confrontations with the white folks.
Then he talked about bringing his son to the civil war and described how much of the civil war was about the slaves. Next, he brought up the story is a black man being shot because he was playing loud music.
His first trip to Paris allowed him to draw a comparison between a foreigner in France and a “foreigner” in his own country. He spoke the shooting of the Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO for his son being similar to the shooting of Prince Jones for the author.
The author ended the book with a visit to the mother of Prince Jones, Mable Jones, who rose up from poverty to achieve personal success in the medical field as Radiology physician. He came away from the visit with a solemnly apocalyptic view of the future for blacks in this country, with the ghettos and prisons in the background.
If you are a black or a “Dreamer” in this country, this book may paint a gloomy picture for your future but yet hopeful that someone like Coates took the courage to speak out about the injustice for blacks. If you are a white, you may gather from the book that you are a privileged group at the expense of the others, especially blacks. And if you’re none of the above like me, then you should count your blessing and struggle for the harmonious society where all people can get along and live happily in this great country of ours.