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A sweeping collection of new and selected essays on the Obama era by the National Book Award-winning author of Between the World and Me
"We were eight years in power" was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. Now Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America's "first white president."
But the story of these present-day eight years is not just about presidential politics. This book also examines the new voices, ideas, and movements for justice that emerged over this period--and the effects of the persistent, haunting shadow of our nation's old and unreconciled history. Coates powerfully examines the events of the Obama era from his intimate and revealing perspective--the point of view of a young writer who begins the journey in an unemployment office in Harlem and ends it in the Oval Office, interviewing a president.
We Were Eight Years in Power features Coates's iconic essays first published in The Atlantic, including "Fear of a Black President," "The Case for Reparations," and "The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration," along with eight fresh essays that revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates's own experiences, observations, and intellectual development, capped by a bracingly original assessment of the election that fully illuminated the tragedy of the Obama era. We Were Eight Years in Power is a vital account of modern America, from one of the definitive voices of this historic moment.
Praise for Ta-Nehisi Coates and Between the World and Me
"I've been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates." --Toni Morrison
"Powerful . . . a searing meditation on what it means to be black in America today." --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Brilliant . . . [Coates] is firing on all cylinders." --The Washington Post
"Urgent, lyrical, and devastating . . . a new classic of our time." --Vogue
"A crucial book during this moment of generational awakening." --The New Yorker
"Titanic and timely . . . essential reading." --Entertainment Weekly
The source of Mr. Coates' power as a writer--not just his research, but that arresting style--seemed ineffible to me since I first encountered it three years ago in Between the World and Me. Halfway through We Were Eight Years in Power--in the opening essay of chapter four, "Notes on the Fourth Year"--Mr. Coates kindly pulls the veil on this mystery. In the essay, he recounts the first time he experienced beauty in hip hop lyrics. Enchanted, he resolved to write like his favorite musicians, with language that is both "supernatural" and rooted in "the concrete and real." He wanted his words to force "any listener to repeat them at odd hours, long after the bass line had died."
The words, both in sound and meaning, rekindled a bit of my own writing impulse, and I assigned the essay to my AP Language students as a complement to (and stylistic relief from) George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language." While that essay also admonishes against cliches and sentimentality in writing, unlike Mr. Coates, Mr. Orwell does not actually offer an example of authentic, affecting writing.
While the subjects of Mr. Coates' essays in We Were Eight Years in Power (among them reparations and mass incarceration) take precedence over his writing style, the beauty of his words is inextricable from their content: the authenticity of his language ensures that his ideas indeed soak into the mind and linger "long after the bass line has died." Megan on 2nd Jun 2018
|Publication Date:||October 3, 2017|