In one of the most riveting and heartfelt books to appear in some time, Coates reflects on the state of black America in the form of a letter to his adolescent son. For Coates, the American dream is so grounded in racism that the “people who need to believe they are white” today are almost as deeply involved in the destruction of black bodies and black lives as their forebears were. Coates’ writing is powered by his outrage at the recent string of police shootings of young black men, which have gone largely unpunished, and intensified by his visceral fear for the safety of his own son in a country where such incidents are widespread. The book achieves a level of clarity and eloquence reminiscent of Ralph Ellison’s classic Invisible Man; it is compelling even when it isn’t entirely convincing. Coates may be a better polemicist than analyst, but the perspective he brings to American life is one that no responsible citizen or serious scholar can safely ignore.
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