In one word: meh.
Even before the upsurge in the Black Lives Matters movement earlier this year (2020), Between the World… was a book that I had been planning to read for a long time. I was excited to pick this book up for several reasons: it had a gorgeous title, a beautifully plain book cover (yes, I do judge books by their covers), and it had won the National Book Award for non-fiction in 2015. I didn’t know much about the book going in, but these details were enough to intrigue me.
Unfortunately, for me personally, this book did not resonate.
Although I loved the concept of the book – an epistolary work, in which the author writes a letter to his adolescent son to expound on his life as a black man living in America – I found it hard to connect to Coates’ style of writing. While the stories and themes that Coates touches on all held the potential to be highly moving, in my extremely subjective opinion, his use of prose detracted from his ideas. Coates’ experimental, stream-of-consciousness style of writing lent the book a feeling of inauthenticity – at odds with its contents – and I frequently found myself either having to take breaks from reading, or having to re-read certain sections to remind myself what had happened.
Does the book have some great ideas, and uplift the traditionally marginalised narrative of how terrifying and stifling it is to be black? Yes.
Does that mean I enjoyed this book? Unfortunately, no.