I recently finished reading Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and I want to write about it. And I’m having a hard time doing so. What do I want to say about this, book, these ideas and their connection to global and experiential education? I don’t know.
But here’s what I do know: it rocked my world. Reading it felt like a very important thing to do. And very challenging. It made me think about so many things in a different way. When my book group, a circle of middle-aged women who “believe we are white,” as Coates would say, got together to discuss it, several of us described the feeling of reading it as if our feet were knocked out from under us. I don’t know what to make of it, and I’ve been blocked for the past 24 hours trying to write this post. I had almost reached the conclusion that I needed to give it some distance, that I wasn’t ready to write about it yet, when a colleague suggested I write about that, to be honest about how it affected me and how hard it is to write about. So here I am.
Coates writes beautiful prose about horrible things. He made me feel what it is like to be him, and by extrapolation, to be like a black man in America today. The book is short and packed with so many nuggets I underlined several lines on nearly every page. It is one I know I will go back to on multiple occasions. It made me look at other things he wrote, from articles in The Atlantic Monthly to an earlier memoir, seek out and listen to podcasts of interviews he did for programs like This American Life and the Chicago Humanities Forum, and follow him on Twitter. I love how down to earth and self-deprecating he sounds in these interviews, his utter surprise at the popularity of the book, especially among the Dreamers, those who believe themselves white.
I am reminded of the power of words to change the world. Much to ponder.