I’ve wanted to read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates for months. I read about it in magazines and online, spotted fellow commuters reading it and saw it listed as a National Book Award finalist. I remember seeing a paparazzi shot of Jill Scott carrying it outside of an airport.
I figured I’d read it in due time. Translation: when it’s in paperback. I prefer to buy paperback over hardcover because of price and portability. I concede and buy hardcover at author events, clearance table finds priced less than the paperback, or current book club selection.
Interest in the book was renewed when a cousin’s friend wrote an impassioned review of it on Instagram. It was sitting on my bookshelf, but I wanted to wait. It was a book club selection and I wanted to read it closer to the date of our brunch, which is this weekend. I almost reached for it again in late February, when Black-ish aired an episode dealing with police brutality on an unarmed Black teen. The second season’s episode 16, called Hope, guest starred Coates as an expert speaker on a fictional news broadcast about riots that erupted after the police officers involved were acquitted. It was a powerful episode, especially for a sitcom.
I fought the temptation to read it then. I wanted the book’s contents to be fresh on my mind for the book club brunch. I wasn’t worried about giving myself only a week to read it. It’s a slim book. I’ve knocked out thicker books in the same timeframe, sometimes less.
I’ve been reading World for the past few days and just can’t get into it. Not because it’s not good. It drew me in from the first page, seeing it’s a letter addressed to Coates’ teenage son. Right away he delves into the civil rights issues Black people, males in particular, face in present day America. The names of innocently killed men, women and children jump out from the pages. Their killers often go free.
The book is physically small and lightweight, but the content is so heavy. I’m not in the mood or mind frame to read it right now, not there is ever a good time to read about Black Americans’ past and present struggles in America. But that’s the point. I don’t want or have to read about them in a book.
Even though Black achievements, and more often injustices against t us, aren’t mentioned in mainstream media, I read about them. I receive daily emails from Clutch, The Root, Essence and other “Black centric” sites. Not to mention I, too, live them. Not to the extreme of others, but my fear, discrimination and awareness of my Blackness are always present. It can be as simple as being the only Black person in spin class, or as heavy as being followed in a store while other shoppers are left alone or being a family member of a loved one who’s murder was never high priority for the police to solve. Being from a Black family, immigrants at that, we swap discrimination stories like we swap food recipes and movie suggestions. Nothing new for us.
A part of me feels guilty for not wanting to read Between the World and Me. A person is writing about his struggles and fears. He lived it. The least I can do is read about it. It’s a guilt I can’t control just like I can’t control feeling slighted when people ask, then stop me from telling them the details of my injuries from a near-fatal car crash years ago. Mother f-cker, I lived it, but you can’t hear about it? Puh-lease!
I’m not even halfway through the book, when I should be finished by now. While on the subway, I let my mind focus more on the song lyrics playing through my iPod’s headphones instead of the words on the page. Music while reading usually isn’t a distraction. I turned down then turned off the music, but ended up watching the darkness of the tunnel as the subway whizzed through. Other times I just stared at the page not seeing anything.
For the sake of contributing to the book discussion and because I don’t like to give up on books, I’ll plunge in en route home tonight. I’m definitely not going to pass on an opportunity to eat and chat with the ladies. I might purchase the audiobook on Audible.com, which I reserve for celebrity memoirs. You won’t catch me reading J. Lo’s memoir on the train, but my neighbors will hear the narration on weekends as I clean my apartment.
Reading, like listening to music and eating, is usually dictated by my mood, but I sometimes use these actions to turn around my mood. The usual life stresses have been percolating more so than usual, or maybe it just seems that way. Rather than wallowing in dark thoughts and feelings, I want to meet a friend for dinner, listen to pop music on my iPod and crack open a light-hearted memoir like The Andy Cohen Diaries or Dry, but only after I give Between the World and Me another try.