I’ll start this post by mentioning my favorite read in 2016, J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. This book inspired me to believe that anything is possible and that the American Dream is still alive and well. So, with this being said, during one of my neighborhood holiday parties, I brought up and spoke highly of Hillbilly Elegy. During the discussion, one of my neighbors suggested Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates to offer a different perspective. Anxious to read this suggested title, I downloaded it the next day and began listening to it during a neighborhood walk with Lulu, my beloved 10-year-old golden-doodle.
Immediately comparing the authors and main characters of each of these titles, a checklist was created in my mind:
|Between the World and Me||Hillbilly Elegy|
|Mr. Coates grew up in Baltimore in the projects.||Mr. Vance grew up in small Midwest towns of Kentucky and Ohio.|
|Mr. Coates grew up poor and black.||Mr. Vance grew up poor and white.|
|Mr. Coates grew up with the belief that people were out to harm his “body.” Regardless of what he did, the establishment would be willing to harm or even kill him. He prefers other countries.||Mr. Vance grew up with the love of family and his country, so much so that he joined the Marines.|
Why such different views and beliefs from each?
While reading Between the World and Me, I experienced an emotional roller coaster. Fluctuating between “what’s wrong with Mr. Coates?” to “I can’t imagine being in Mr. Coates’s shoes.” It made me reflect on my fundamental belief that the world is a good place, a place where people largely do the right thing, and a place where my kids will be treated fairly with hard work (to provide perspective to my comments, I live in a wonderful community with a large majority of its residents leaning heavily to the liberal left, which is probably ultimately an unsustainable lifestyle).
This is much different from that of Mr. Coates’s experiences. He believes his duty is to teach his children that they will not be treated fairly due to the color of their skin. Mr. Coates opened my mind to dare to imagine what it would be like to worry about my wife, kids, family and friends consistently being challenged during mundane activities like driving to a friend’s house or getting groceries. And although I could attempt to put myself in his shoes, I don’t know what that feels like in reality.
I do believe (maybe naively) that time solves most issues. I believe that the United States is a better and safer place today than it was when Mr. Vance and Mr. Coates grew up. I also know that in my daily dealings (personal or professional), if we keep looking back, we will never move forward.
Between the World and Me is a powerful perspective and read, and I would certainly encourage everyone to read both this and Hillbilly Elegy. You can find an adapted excerpt of Mr. Coates’s book in this article, Letter to My Son.
What you are reading? Share in the comments below or email me directly. I’m constantly looking for new titles to add to my growing list in support of my passion for continuous learning. If you are looking for additional suggestions, check-out the ScaleCo Bookshelf.
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