Ta-Nehisi Coates’s letter to his fifteen year old son in the wake of acquittal of Michael Brown’s murderers is a masterpiece. This is by far the best book I read this year and I doubt if any other books I might read this year might beat it. I do not remember how I came across this book, where I heard or read about it, but I am glad that I did.
Spanning around 176 pages this a short read. Short but not a quick read, not because of the complexity of the prose but because of the intensity. The fear, pain, burden, humiliation, oppression, courage and strength makes one reflect on each and every sentence. This isn’t just a book where Coates lays down what his son can expect from the country where his ancestors were brought on slave ships and made to work on the cotton plantations, a place where racism is institutionalized to such an extent that questioning it is frowned upon as causing disturbance, a place where the destruction of a black body is always does in self defense, where grand juries find reasonable cause when someone snuffs out a black life; this is a book that details Coates’s odyssey as a boy through the streets of Baltimore to his coming of age at his Mecca, The Howard University and eventually to the mature, articulate author now before us.
The writing is beautiful, the words flow out of his pen like pearls sliding on silk. There is much to learn from this book just from a literary perspective. I watched Coates’s interview with Jon Stewart and at one point Stewart comments that Coates’s book doesn’t offer hope; does it have to? It isn’t the job of an author to offer solutions or sign off with “I have a dream”, it’s his job to document the truth, the emotion and the travesty of a society that refuses to self-introspect on itself. The hope doesn’t lie in a book, it lies in the humanity.
Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered.