Ta-Nehisi Coates

My favorite book of 2015

That’s right. I am just now getting around to taking inventory of 2015 and all that it meant for me and my girls and our lives going forward. Everyone else did it when you’re supposed to do it, before the year ended. But this is my website and I’ll cry if I fucking want to. Although it will never look as convincing or evoke anything like the gut punch of this:

I spent that last week of the year on a beach in Mexico, yes I did. I drank tequila at noon, ate a grotesque amount of fried tortilla chips with every meal, and read six books. Yep, that’s one, two, three… six. All the way to six. I don’t have any free time to read books in my natural habitat, the one where six-year-olds routinely swing from trees, so the idea of getting to sit on my skinny white butt and devour all those words seemed more indulgent to me than what it cost to travel to Mexico and stay in a room by the beach for a week.

A photo posted by Heather B. Armstrong (@dooce) on

Now that I am back shuttling two kids to and from school/gymnastics/doctor appointments/piano while attempting to bring home the metaphorical bacon, I am experiencing more withdrawal from the books than I am the warm weather, and y’all know how much I love warm weather, I will not bore you with yet another lament about how cruddy Utah’s winters can be. Oh, wait. Except I will. Because people who live in condos with covered parking keep openly complaining that it’s not snowing enough. SHUT YOUR FACES. Seriously, shut them up. And don’t open them again until you have to shovel 18 inches of snow out of your driveway and then get ticketed by the city because you missed a square inch on the sidewalk. Bitter snow shoveler, Heather is. Changing my bio EVERYWHERE to reflect this quality of mine.

Normally I read books on a Kindle (this one specifically, it’s great if you’re reading outside) because it keeps track of everything I highlight in one tidy little place. I only very recently found out that some people don’t highlight passages in books and upon hearing this information I may have let out an involuntary sound that made a whole family pick up their beach gear and move to another hotel. How ever will you go back and find that line in Tina Fey’s Bossypants where she refers to blondes as “Yellowhairs” and calls them out for squatting in a class called “Gary’s Glutes Camp in an attempt to reverse-engineer a butt.” You non-highlighters make no sense at all. You might even be a scourge.

Fine. Whatever. I’m an English major who was taught to read books this way. Err on the side of highlighting too much, one professor preached. Which may have happened when I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me.


Yeah, I just flipped through it now and I highlighted the whole goddamn thing. Again, I would have normally read this on a Kindle, but I picked it up at a local bookstore when I took the girls there to reward them for, hm, I don’t remember what for. Probably for touching a piece of food possessing texture or hue. Or for going an entire day without taking off their socks and leaving them in the most random places LIKE ON MY DESK NEXT TO MY MOUSE WHO THE HELL IS RAISING YOU. So gross. I do not want the sweaty and possibly fungus-infested cotton coating of your feet on a surface that is at an altitude any higher than your feet.

This is by far the most important book of the year and easily at the top of my list. It’s only 152 pages long, written to his son, a love letter of sorts if love letters can be a scathing indictment on an entire culture and its history of violence and genocide:

Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered. I think we would like to kill you ourselves before seeing you killed by the streets that America made. That is a philosophy of the disembodied, of a people who control nothing, who can protect nothing, who are made to fear not just the criminals among them but the police who lord over them with all the moral authority of a protection racket.

I’d go back an read almost every passage two or three times in an attempt to honor the significance of what Coates lays out so plainly, so expertly, as if he is a surgeon who treats his science as art. I made myself ration the whole thing, reading only 20 pages at most at a time so that I would have something to look forward to the next night in bed when normally I would have been working. Except that I guess reading this is work, a kind of work that needs to be done, that has to be done in an attempt to further acknowledge that the horrors committed against black people, horrors that have built a system in which I can blithely sit where I sit and make jokes on a blog about my kids and their socks, where I get to complain about snow in my fucking driveway, means that I have to turn away “from the brightly rendered version of [my] country as it has always declared itself and [turn] toward something murkier and unknown.”

Within a year I think Leta will possess the maturity to read this. In fact, she may be ready for this now. It will be an essential component of the continuing conversations we have about who she is, what she has been born into, the dangerous power of that birthright, and how she must never take for granted the fact that she can walk and run and play and act a fool with the blessing and protection that is not afforded to an entire race of people. As Coates warns his son:

You have been cast into a race in which the wind is always at your face and the hounds are always at your heels. And to varying degrees this is true of all life. The difference is that you do not have the privilege of living in ignorance of this essential fact.

Buy it, borrow it, check it out of the library. I will loan you my copy. This should be required reading for anyone who has ever been told and believed the lie of American history.