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To discuss “Between The World and Me” is to ask fundamental questions as to why readers read and writers write. It seems so many responses—like David Brooks’s greatly debated column—have attempted to judge how Ta-Nehisi Coates sees the world, as if he had offered a proof for a long-vexing mathematical theorem: I think he got this right but I have doubts about that.
Why does this need arise? Great books are written because writers need to write them; they are compelled by the deepest of human instincts to tell their story, to shout to the world what it is to be them. This is my life. Listen.
Between the World and Me is a great book. It sears your soul. It is inevitably and appropriately compared to James Baldwin and, like Baldwin, it belongs in that broad canon of passionate first-person work: George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club, Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje. I can’t imagine that it won’t be read for a very long time.