Going into this book, I had some apprehension. Could it live up to the acclaim? Was Coates the resurrection Baldwin as some seem to believe he is? Would Coates correctly identify the root of the problems that racial tensions grow out of?
Initially, it seemed Coates was heading down the wrong direction, making socio-economic comparisons of the black reality versus the white world of Mr. Belvedere. Not only is this comparison hugely erroneous, but it ignores the black world of The Cosby Show and seems a rather juvenile argument to make. But these were the thoughts of a young Coates and it eventually becomes clear that Coates' argument is anything but juvenile.
Despite a rocky start and an end that gets lost somewhere in Paris, Between the World and Me is everything others have said it is. In fact, it may be more. Coates drops serious knowledge, and he does it in a way that is so incredibly eloquent, yet lyrical. If the subject weren't so incredibly infuriating, his words could easily lull a reader to a restful state.
Is Coates the next Baldwin? In my opinion, no. They are different writers with different styles. The comparison is certain to be made as both authors carry a certain eloquence and broach the same subject. But in comparing Between the World and Me with Baldwin's influential The Fire Next Time, one cannot ignore that Coates really tackles the subject, truly shines light on the issue until it becomes transparent, while Baldwin's work was more proscriptive. Baldwin spent much of his work addressing religion and its role in the issue; Coates groups all human constructs and identifies the problem not so much as the fault of God or society, but as the individual's inability to think beyond these concepts.
Between the World and Me is a phenomenal work that gives voice to Baldwin's assertion that “freedom” was still one hundred years in the future. Here's to hoping this book gets us closer to true emancipation within the next 48 years.