Review: Between the World and Me – Denounces God, quits school, and calls FDNY men “menaces of nature”

Between the World and Me
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The author of this book denounces God, quits school, instills fear, encourages separation of races, and calls firefighters who died during 9/11 “not human” and “menaces of nature”. All in letters instructing his son.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME starts out powerfully—as the book we need. He speaks sharply about the unjustified, tragic killing of black men and the lack of punishment for their killers. He writes, “The destroyers will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions.” He speaks heartbrokenly about each as someone’s child, whose vessel was filled with thread-bare tires from travel for sports and countless hours of teaching: “And think of how that vessel was taken, shattered on the concrete, and all its holy contents, all that had gone into him…”

It is saddening. Coates offers such powerful statements as “But race is the child of racism, not the father.” He talks poignantly about growing up in Baltimore and the overall foundation of America “you cannot forget how much they took from us and how they transfigured our very bodies into sugar, tobacco, cotton, and gold.” Truly, this could have been the book that achieved his goal: “Perhaps I might write something of consequence someday.” But Coates is conflicted.


When his son was little, he would rush carefree into a crowd of kids, full of joy, no concern. Coates writes, “you have never been afraid of people, of rejection, and I have always admired you for this and always been afraid for you because of this.” Back-and-forth, Coates weaves a tale of fear, a worry, a denial of hope.

“Hate gives identity” is what Coates writes. And though there is horrific history and modern day evils, Coates offers no hint of light. He stays bunkered in segregation. He labels he and his son as “blacks” and those that believe in “The Dream” as “people that think they are white”. He calls the latter “dullards”, who celebrate Martin Luther King’s words and as people selfishly hoping for unity.

Coates instead proscribes to the eye-to-eye ideologies of “Malcolm, his body bound in a cell, studying the books, trading his human eyes for the power of flight.” Coates believes that “The Dream is the enemy of all art, courageous thinking, and honest writing.” It was his feelings toward 9/11 that hurt me most of all.


As Coates stood on his balcony in New York, overlooking the plumes of smoke rising from the demolished Trade Center towers, he recalls of the police officers, firefighters, and rescue works that died, “They were not human to me. Black, white, or whatever, they were the menaces of nature; they were the fire, the comet, the storm, which could—with no justification—shatter my body.”

Perhaps part of the issue is Coates sharp denouncing of God—Christian, Muslim, any. He repeatedly refers to himself as godless or ungodly to his son. His only god is found within “the body” of unified black men and women. They must resist “The Dreamers” ideology.

Coates speaks sharply against getting an education. Again, the educational system belongs to The Dreamer (aka “the people who think they are white”). He refers to Howard University as “The Mecca”; he speaks highly of it throughout. Perhaps he forgot that he told his son early in these letters that he dropped out of school, out of “The Mecca”.

That’s a large part of this book: off the top of his head thinking. He writes beautifully one moment, capturing attention, drawing honest conclusions. Then he’ll turn, contradicting, and—worst of all—driving wedges in already frail relationships.

This book isn’t a message of hope. It is a message of fear and failure.

Please look more into this book. It is getting lauded—I’m not sure, justly. The preview of this book is on Amazon, here: Between the World and Me.

As always, happy reading!!


4 thoughts on “Review: Between the World and Me – Denounces God, quits school, and calls FDNY men “menaces of nature”

  1. bibliosa

    Very honest review. I’ve heard so many good things about this, but I didn’t really know much about it. I planned on reading it to find out for myself, and in preparation for a talk of his I’ll be attending. It’s always good to get another take on something. Great Review 🙂

  2. Pingback: August Summary, Jungle Book Review, and No More Amazon Affiliate–whew! | The Avid Reader – Books, Books, Books!

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