Top positive review
Most challenging book I've ever read
Reviewed in the United States on September 30, 2016
I'm white, male, and have very little understanding or appreciation for black culture. My parents and siblings all watched Roots when I was about 8 years old. I encountered some black sailors when I was in the U.S. Navy - in fact, I had a roommate for six months or so that was a black male, but we maybe spoke a hundred words during that time. This book came recommended by a quasi-stranger, not for it's content but for its structure: letters from a father to a son. I'd mentioned that I was interested in writing that sort of book, and this was a resulting recommendation. I read a few reviews before buying it. Not the sort of book I'd otherwise pick up. After ordering it, I heard the author on NPR - without knowing it was the author of the book, mind you - and I thought "wow, this guy is really interesting, provocative, well-spoken, intellectually sound, and speaks from a world that I can only see from afar." So when the show host said his name, I knew I had to pick up the book and read it soon. I had that opportunity within days, on a flight to Atlanta, my first visit there in maybe fifteen years. I got through about 110 pages on the flight and it was perfect timing. Atlanta is a sea of black compared to most everywhere I've lived. Instantly, I could try and appreciate my surroundings in way that I'd never been able to before. Did I feel "white guilt"? Sure. I do. I've seen racism my whole life, especially toward black. This book, however, did much more than rekindle strong feelings of being a winner of Powerball proportions in the life lottery. It challenged me so fundamentally and starkly in a way that I have never been challenged, reading a book, in my life. At times I felt compelled to put the book down, that it was just conjuring up too much weight of history that I wanted to put back out of sight. But I kept going. Finishing it, I felt, like apparently many others do, that this should be required reading for every American. Even those outside of the USA will benefit from it, as it will certainly illuminate the tension and schizophrenia and contradictions and rewritten history of our country. I hope Mr. Coates continues writing until he draws his final breath.