Sunday, November 22, 2020

Ta-Nahisi Coates

 Often what I love about discovering a new (to me) author is the idea of comfort - knowing what I'm in store for - if I want to read a thrilling detective story, I may return to Michael Connelly.  If I want a solid story about family, I may pick up Anne Tyler.  I love the familiarity of these types of authors.  But, what I also find amazing is authors who can write books that are significantly different from one another - novelists who write memoirs, essayists who write short stories.  I've found at times I don't like an author's work in one areas, but love them in another.  Ta-Nehisi Coates, of course, is one who seems to have the Midas touch - turning anything he publishes into gold.

Between the World and Me:  A letter from a parent to a child is always meant to impart wisdow - to warn of pitfalls that life may present, to challenge the reader to be stronger and more aware than the writer may have been in their younger years,  And yet, we know that children rarely listen to their parents.  And so a letter almost seems like a forewarning of inevitable tragedy, knowing what is to come, but also knowing that every generation must find their own way.  Between the World and Me is written as the author's letter to his own son, detailing the history of our country's exploitation of the bodies of black men and women.  Through historical narrative and memoir, Coates details his awakening to the reality of race in America, and the seeming industructible nature of the violence and inequities reinforced by White Supremacy.  
The Water Dancer: After reading the powerful, yet fairly straightforward Between the World and Me, I wasn't quite ready for Coates's fiction.  While beautifully written, I found the story a bit difficult to follow at first.  It took me about 100 pages to get into it, but I'm glad I stuck with it.  I recommend reading this one when you have a good chunk of time to set aside - to get fully immersed in the cadence of the writing and the lyrical story.  This book takes place during slavery - When Hiram Walker's mother is sold away, he loses all memory of her, but gains a mysterious power.  Years later, determined to escape bondage, he embarks on am arduous journey to save more than just himself.  Given the subject matter and the elements of magical realism, this book reminded me quite a bit of Toni Morrison's Beloved.  This book was a challenge for me - in terms of understanding and making my way through the writing.  I was happy to have read it as part of a book club - so that I could hear the variety of interpretations of he events in the novel - which parts were real, and which parts were imagined.  But, overall I was glad I picked this one up - the horrors of slavery should not be readily forgotten, and to have this narrative introduced by such a popular author, I hope, will bring many much needed discussions to the forefront.