The text, drawing from an autobiographical account of the author’s youth, is written in the form of a raw, emotional and at times poignant letter to his teenaged son depicting the feeling, symbolism and violent reality of being black in America. Deeply inspired by James Baldwin, Coates details the ways in which he experiences institutional racism from schools, the police and even “the streets”. However, unlike Baldwin the author views white supremacy as an indestructible force that black Americans cannot evade or erase but will continue to struggle against.
Between the World and Me has captured the attention of faculty, staff, and students across the university, sparking collaborations across campus, including an invited lecture for first-year students and a symposium through the Wang Center.
Published in 2015, the awards won by the author for Between the World and Me include the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work. It was also a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.
The committee would like to continue to highlight the following themes in Between the World and Me:
1. Constructions of race: the social, political, economic and cultural frameworks that lend to the understanding of race, including and especially whiteness.
2. Place and belonging: the transformative power of learning particularly in a place of deep connection and community.
3. Narratives: the power of story to serve as a form of both enlightenment and non-violent resistance for social change.
4. Development: familial relationships and their influence on the arc of development from childhood to adulthood.
If you have any questions about the book or if your department or division has an event coming up in the next academic year that you think might tie in with Between the World and Me, please contact either Tyler Travillian (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Laree Winer (email@example.com) as co-chairs. You may also write to Rona Kaufman (firstname.lastname@example.org), director of FYEP.