Sample Book Review on The book-sized letter written by Coates

The book-sized letter written by Coates to his son Samori provides some very important insights into life in general and into particular experiences the author went through from childhood to adulthood. The author begins with a description of the conventional discriminative practices, emphasizing that by focusing on the bone deep differences between humans as the rationale for stereotypical assumptions, humans miss the point in general.[1] Furthermore, he claims through his explanation of racism, that race is an effect of racism and not the other way round. The book is divided into three different parts. The first part provides a brief summary of the author’s early childhood, beginning with the argument that the request for him to describe why America’s progress is based on violence and looting would be tantamount to asking him to explain his black body. Coates considered his body a precious commodity based on childhood experiences, for which there was constant scramble as was for all the other black kids around.

Accordingly, the second and third parts of the letter go ahead to explain how life and its challenges teaches one various lessons. For instance, in part 2, the author mentions how the constant violence triggered by racism taught him lessons on specific body language to use, the blocks to avoid, and how best to keep himself safe in the midst of the general negative attitudes towards the blacks of his time.[2] How to be violent in moderation was a mandatory lesson for all young boys to learn. Regulating the inherent violent is a lesson that Coates intended to pass to his son for the sake of the future. The author depicts the stereotype that whites are superior to blacks through their portrayal as ‘the others’, as well as using some other negative languages and the conclusion that all these are in human clothes. This portrayal coats the venom with which each race, within a racist regime, considers the other.

In the third part of the book and as a conclusion, Coates emphasizes the importance of individual efforts towards change. He argues that as much as the oppressed races felt the need for change, they are more or less like dreamers in every other sector, whose dreams evolve as the needs of the world evolve such as through technology. For such dreams to take shape, the affected individuals have to put in personal effort for change to be effected. He thus urges his son to continue the pursuit of his forefathers towards elimination of oppression while empathizing with the ‘dreamers’ without pushing for change on their behalf.[3] From this last part of the book, it is evident that while the author holds contempt for racism, he does not feel that the blacks have any power to push racism out of the whites; rather, stopping racism would be at the discretion of the whites who practice it.

Personal Reflection

The subject of racism is one that many people find challenging to understand, prevent or even address within their conventional living spaces. However, reading through Coates’ letter to his son has enabled me consider racism from a different perspective namely, that in which individuals need to work on their own attitudes about other people they consider different regardless of what those other people can do. A community, in which people tend to focus on the differences between them more than on the value each individual brings, should be discouraged both intrinsically and explicitly.



Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the world and me. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015.

[1]Ta-Nehisi Coates. Between the world and me. (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015, p. 5).

[2] Ibid., p. 49.

[3] Ibid., p. 106.