Biography & Autobiography. Politics. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:In this â??urgently relevantâ?* collection featuring the landmark essay â??The Case for Reparations,â? the National Book Awardâ??winning author of Between the World and Me â??reflects on race, Barack Obamaâ??s presidency and its jarring aftermathâ?*â??including the election of Donald Trump. New York Times Bestseller â?˘ Finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Named One of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times â?˘ USA Today â?˘ Time â?˘ Los Angeles Times â?˘ San Francisco Chronicle â?˘ Essence â?˘ O: The Oprah Magazine â?˘ The Week â?˘ Kirkus Reviews *Kirkus Reviews (starred review) â??We were eight years in powerâ? 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. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, 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 Americaâ??s â??first white president.â? 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 periodâ??and the effects of the persistent, haunting shadow of our nationâ??s old and unreconciled history. Coates powerfully examines the events of the Obama era from his intimate and revealing perspectiveâ??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 Coatesâ??s iconic essays first published in The Atlantic, including â??Fear of a Black President,â? â??The Case for Reparations,â? and â??The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,â? along with eight fresh essays that revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coatesâ??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 Powe
Thus ends Coates' "Notes on the Eighth Year," the pre-essay for the eighth essay in this amazing collection of essays written over the course of Barack Obama's time in the White House and all published in The Atlantic. That eighth essay, "My President Was Black," is one of my three favorites in the collection. The other two are "The Case for Reparations" from the sixth year and "The First White President" which is actually the epilogue but was also published in The Atlantic after the election of 2016.
The entire collection is breathtaking and my copy is now littered with little post-it flags. Coates provides a pre-essay for each of the published essays. In these, he provides context from his own life at the time of the writing, articulates some of the intent of the essay, and critiques his relative success in light of that context and intent. This approach to the collection works. It provides a taste of memoir to accompany the more academically oriented pieces and enables us to witness Coates' development as an essayist -- or at least his perception of his own development. In the same pre-essay quoted above, he notes that he struggled with balancing his preference for feature writing with the relative ease of essay writing. Indeed, his greatest talent lies in the feature. This requires access to the subject of the writing and Coates never underestimates the gift provided to him by Barack Obama's willingness to sit down with him, to discuss and argue and share his inner thoughts with him. In feature writing, Coates' narrative voice is crystal clear and compelling. His more academic essays (e.g., "The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration") are simply excellent and persuasive; his features can make the reader cry.
This collection of essays is not an unfiltered approbation of Barack Obama. Even while Obama was still in office, Coates criticized some of his policy decisions as well as his "respectability politics." Coates fully understands the reasons Obama walked some of the lines he walked but refuses to endorse rhetoric that negates the systemic forces underlying the statistics. Coates is also interested in something larger: the historical and political dynamics that both enabled the election of the first Black president and, from Coates' perspective, ensured the subsequent election of the brashest, most overtly hateful, and least qualified White president ever. His analysis is compelling.
Reading essays is presumably always an exercise in learning. Reading this collection was, for me, transformative. Highly recommended.
When Coates was a child, he suffered a beating at the hands of gang members. In that
Bill Moyers interview: "Coates says he wrote his book for Prince Jones, a close friend from college who was mistaken for a criminal and killed by police when he was 25 years old. Jones died, Coates says, because 'at the heart of our country is the notion that we are okay with the presumption that black peopleâŚ somehow have a predisposition toward criminality.'
"When Jones was killed in 2000, there were no cameras. No one saw it. It was 'as though nothing happened,' Coates says. 'As though Prince Jonesâs life did not matter at all.' Now that more people are documenting injustices with their cellphones and we are seeing the evidence on TV and on the Internet, he says America is beginning to understand the extent of the racism that black people face every day.
â 'Iâm a black man in America,' Coates says. 'I canât secure the safety of my son. I canât go home at night and tell him, âItâs ok, you definitely will not end up like Prince Jones.â I just donât have that right. I just donât have that power. But what I do have the power to do is to say, âYou wonât enroll me in this lie. You wonât make me part of it.' "
This was an amazing book by an insightful author. As a white person in a very white, very Republican area of the country, I found it to be quite eye-opening. I think of myself as a middle of the road liberal. This book helped me to see just how white my bubble is.
I read about red-lined areas of cities where it is impossible to obtain loans to buy houses since insurance companies won't underwrite them.
I learned about the wealth gap â if you compare any two white and black families with similar incomes, you'll find that the black family has less in the way of savings and 'accumulated wealth' from centuries of discriminatory laws.
I learned that laws could appear to not discriminate, but do. When Social Security was enacted farm workers and domestic help were not covered, leaving up to 80% of blacks not covered. Such discriminatory laws are still being written. For example, Obama Care the expansion of Medicaid was left to states to choose. The states that chose not to do so, just happen to be the a majority of the south's former slave owning states and the disenfranchised were again the poor blacks.
And I finally understand the case for black reparations. As Coates has said, if you stop beating a man, that is good. But the man has suffered irreparable damages from the years of beatings. Is it possible for the US to do reparations? Does it have the will to do it? I am extremely doubtful that it will occur, but I am thankful for now understanding the case behind it.
Definitely recommended. 5 stars.
This is not a hopeful book. There are no answers within the pages. But if there was ever essential reading, this is a fine place to start.
I was first granted access to this book back in 2017 from Netgalley and the publishers. At the time, although I read it immediately, no matter how many times I tried I couldn't seem to write a review and eventually gave up. However, in this era of Trump and the rise of white nationalism throughout the west including in Canada, I decided to read it again This is the kind of book that should be read by anyone who cares how we got to this sorry pass and where we may be heading in the future and I recommend it highly.
All essays are important but I particularly liked three of them. The first is the âWhy do so few blacks study the civil war?â The Civil War ended slavery in America, so why blacks are not interested in studying this conflict, wonders Ta-Nehisi Coates. The American Civil War has been reduced to a dramatised sports game between white men, those from the North that led the Union and those from the South that led the Confederacy. After the war ended, Coates says, the main priority of all governments was to come together as a country and they did so by building a national myth in which the African-Americans left out. Ta-Nehisi Coates is critical in this interpretation. The civil war has shaped the American history, it goes deep in explaining the slavery and the subsequent events the followed. It is time, he says, for black Americans to look at the civil warâs history, to tell their history and to reclaim their role in it.
âThe Case For Reparationsâ is the longest essay in the book. It is a detailed, critical, and devastating analysis of how slavery, Jim Crow, segregation and later housing discrimination, and mass incarceration, encouraged by deliberate policy decisions, created enormous disparities in wealth, health, achievement and wellbeing that was passed down generation after generation to the present day. âThe sins of slavery did not stop with slavery,â writes Ta-Nehisi Coates. âOn the contrary, slavery was the initial crime in the long tradition of crimes, of plunder even, that could be traced into the present day. And whereas a claim for reparations for slavery rested in the ancestral past, it was now clear that one could make a claim on behalf of those who were very much alive.â
âMy President Was Blackâ is perhaps the most powerful of the eight essays. âObama is a conservative revolutionary, and nowhere in his conservative character revealed more than in the very sphere where he holds singular gravity - race,â writes Ta-Nehisi Coates in this clitical text. His upbringing, biracial, and raised by a white mother and two white grandparents, shaped Barack Obama and provided him with a different view of the world than that of Coatesâ upbringing. He grew up in Hawaii, removed from what most black Americans experience, that is a sort of violence and segregation. He wasn't traumatised.
The respect and indeed the awe that Coates has for Barack Obama is obvious but it doesnât stop him for criticizing him for his somehow patronizing remarks to African-American communities. African-Americans didnât quite prospered during his administration and one of the reasons was the limits that existed in the Obama presidency. He couldn't do all that he would like to do as president of the United States but he, nevertheless, accomplished major feats. He remade the nationâs healthcare system. He revitalised a Justice Department and he began dismantling the private-prison system for federal inmates. Obama nominated the first Latina justice to the Supreme Court, support to marriage equality, and ended the U.S. militaryâs Donât Ask Donât Tell policy.
But, his very existence inflamed Americaâs racist conscience. Obamaâs election fueled a backlash that strengthen many of the social and political divisions in America. Race, therefore, should be central if we want to understand Trumpâs rise, argues Coates. Trump led a movement that exclusively relied on racism and sexism.
Ta-Nehisi Coatesâ writing is beautiful and evocative. His model is James Baldwin and like Baldwin he writes with honesty and clarity. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Coates also has an essay about Bill Cosbyâs conservatismâhe says in the intro that ignoring the rape allegations was the biggest failingâdiscussing how the diagnosis of the failed black family has persisted for over a hundred years, even as todayâs conservatives appeal to a fabled glorious past. The essay about the black family in the age of mass incarceration makes clear that the plunder is viciously ongoingâjust for example, as the sanctions for having a criminal record increase along with the likelihood of criminal encounters for young African-Americans, the rate of successful completion of parole has fallen by half in recent years. As he points out in that essay, âthe world of the black middle class isâbecause of policyâsignificantly poorer [than that of the white middle class]. Thus to wonder about the difference in outcomes âŚ is really to wonder about the difference in weight between humans living on the Earth and humans living on the moon.â
Coates is ambivalent about his writingâs appeal to white audiences like me, and heâs not hopeful, but heâs always worth reading.
work, on Obama , and his own feelings,, including his work on reparations.
We Were Eight Years in Power is collection of essays Coates wrote, one from each year of the Obama presidency, a time which paralleled Coates's own rise from novice columnist to acclaimed
As a complete collection, We Were Eight Years in Power is a bit too wandering and repetitive. This is like an album which purports to be a collection of the artists âmost loved songs,â but leaves out some of the true âgreatest hits.â A thoughtful collection overall, but one best suited for lovers of government.
I think the format of the book really helped me to read through to the end because there were clear places I could pause to think. I also liked that he added notes before each essay where he in part reflected on what he had written in the past. Seeing this self reflection and acknowledgement of things that, after time has passed, he sees could be improved, shows a writer who will surely continue to improve.
I definitely want to read more of his work, especially things published after this book, but probably things published before as well.
I wonder if
What I found unexpectedly interesting in this book is Coates' personal thoughts and development through the eight years of the Obama presidency. It's not just growth but also a realization that expectations and reality are never linear or progressive.
Coates is a very good writer, with his essays organized very well, being very informative, without being too subjective.
The Case for
His commentary is very useful too, as it gives a lot of context for each essay, and explains his motivations and thought process for writing them.
that the author uses to draw readers in: "This story began, as all writing must, in failure."
I was hoping, if not for humor, at least some irony.
Given the overall positive LT reception for Eight Years, my concentration
TNC derives the title from the experience of black Americans in the South during Reconstruction, one of whom spoke of being in power eight years
In the epilogue TNC attempts most fully and forcefully to come to terms with the election of Trump; he makes a powerful case, however inconvenient to modern sensibilities on both sides of the aisle, that white supremacy is the evidence-based explanation for both Trump's candidacy and victory.
TNC writes in his usual no-holds-barred yet personal style. A compelling book which will no doubt inform the national dialogue, at least to some extent, about what happened in 2008-2016 and the way forward.
**--galley received as part of early review program.