Between the World and Me
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is a 2015 National Book Award winner for nonfiction. The book conveys, in the form of a letter to the author’s 15-year-old son Samori Coates, the raw, emotion-packed reality of an African-American’s experience of living inside his own skin. Coates speaks out against the reality of racism and living in a black body in America.
This is an exceptional reading/listening experience that explores Coates’ personal upbringing in the ghettos of Baltimore, Md., his intellectual and historical lens of being black strongly influenced by the visions of Malcolm X, and the contrasting realities of being black in and outside of America. Coates writes as one who speaks with the authority of the streets.
America, he explains, has become a place of dreamers who blindly follow the “Dream.” This “Dream” excludes persons of color, and dreamers will do whatever it takes to realize this “Dream” at the expense of the normalized horrors of simply being on the other side of the “Dream” equation: living in a black body. Coates recognizes that the opportunities that he and his wife, Kenyatta, have provided for Samori have shaped a different experience of being black for their son, and his letter becomes an advisory and encouraging tool for Samori as he begins to understand what being black means for himself.
Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation
Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol is an anecdotally empowering tool that brings awareness of both the darkness and light of living in extreme poverty as a person of color. The stories are contextualized in the run-down, impoverished district of South Bronx, New York City. Hidden behind the painted highway lies a community overrun with AIDS and early drug exposure, prostitution, racialized socioeconomics, deadly infrastructure, and homicide in broad daylight.
These normalizations speak not only to the inequality and deprivation of the South Bronx community but also to the loss of innocence and freedom for the children living there. Nonetheless, the children of South Bronx are spirited and carry a light of hope, a light that foils the darkness of living amid the bloodshed and racialized poverty of South Bronx. In an easy but heartbreaking and therefore hard read, Kozol gathers the voices of South Bronx and pieces together their beautiful brokenness through stories that allow the streets of South Bronx to speak for themselves.