This is a quick but important read. Why...? I don't think you can properly understand the things that are happening in America this year without trying to embrace the point-of-view of the people to whom they are happening.
This book is one man's attempt to explain to his son the danger of the world he lives in while maintaining his ability to live happily and take joy from the world. This is a love letter...but it's also a statement that's based in a broad and nearly undeniable fear that I think Coates has lived with his entire life. The fear that "his body could be taken away from him" either through banning to a ghetto or "safe neighborhood" for blacks, imprisonment (nearly the same thing), or death brought about just for being black in the wrong place and at the wrong time.
He tells his son of growing up in Baltimore, not a tremendously safe city, escaping to "The Mecca," Howard University, expanding his world and still having fear. Now, his fear had redoubled though, as he had a family, and particularly his son and his body, to protect.
From the place of fear he is able to move. First he moves to a place of sorrow and lostness. And finally to a place where he can try to find peace. He's also trying to help his son find peace while still reminding him of the dangers.
The book made me uncomfortable...but it's the right kind of uncomfortable. It's the uncomfortable of attempting to understand...of empathy for something that I don't have to face in the same way. This is an important conversation, and we wrong ourselves if we refuse to have it.