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What I’m Reading: “The Beautiful Struggle” by Ta-Nehisi Coates (No Spoilers)

June 01, 2017
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    The Beautiful Struggle

A book review by Demetrius McCray

There are very few writers that I can say consistently write in a very moving and profound manner like Ta-Nehisi Coates does. In this memoir of the author and his father, Coates introduces us to the man that raised him and his siblings, directly leading us in to his world-renowned Between the World and Me.

This book is a truly heartbreaking, uplifting, and breathtaking venture through Coates’ adolescence  as he and his father attempt to maneuver throughout downtown Baltimore during the Crack Epidemic of the 1980s. The historical context given is nothing less than purely accurate but the historical accuracy isn’t where this particular section of the book flourishes; it is how seamlessly Coates ties his personal experience to a nation-wide crisis that targeted Black communities through his language usage. Speaking of his friends and their tendencies to become the subjects of police interest, Coates writes,

“Mostly they all were products of single parents, and in the most tragic category - black boys, with no particular criminal inclinations but whose very lack of direction put them in the crosshairs of the world.”

Unlike this book’s follow-up (Between the World and Me), this book uses very raw language and descriptions that are influenced by Hip-Hop and R&B, a masterful encapsulation that makes the book a vehicle for the story along with each and every word being another way the memoir becomes more engaging and enriched.

Aside from the writing, the memoir follows Coates from age 12 through his days as a college student at Howard University. In this journey he offers us so much insight to which I think many black people would be able to relate, all the while giving us questions to ask ourselves as young adults, parents, students and everyday citizens.

The Beautiful Struggle falls short at no point and I believe it offers the best writing in this arena since the beloved James Baldwin. Definitely worth a read. 5/5