written by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Many in the publishing crowd recently enjoyed Ta-Nehisi Coates’ reading from his memoir, The Beautiful Struggle at PAMA’s cocktail party hosted by The Atlantic. Our very own Dan Sharkey was inspired to read the book!
When your desk is overflowing with books of every variety it takes a truly special case to stand out, but Ta-Nehisi Coates’ memoir did just that. From the opening page I was in awe of this young author.
This novel is powerful on so many levels. A driving lyricism draws you in from the start as the poetic prose dances with beat box rhythms. An unguarded honesty gives the narrative weight as it lays bare the universal struggles of a child on the cusp of adulthood. And in both aspects it soars. And for both aspects this book could be written about any time and any place and still resonate. But it doesn’t take place just anywhere.
Our author didn’t find his way in some faceless city or tucked away suburb. Instead he grew up in Baltimore, on the West Sideâ€”in the dark heart of the American dream. He grew up at a time when crack rock was sweeping through the community like a plagueâ€”leaving bodies in the streets and kids on the corner. He grew up in place that poverty and violence seemed determined to erase from history. And so this story is all the more affecting for surviving in the face of such odds.
But just as the Coates family fits no easy mold so too does this novel defy convention at every turn. No ghetto clichÃ© or gangbanging morality tale could contain the rare power of Coates’ voice. There are no easy answers and no expected turns. Instead readers are treated to a masterfully written portrait of a family struggling as best they can against a world gone mad.