First Year Reading Program selects ‘Between the World and Me’

Ta-Nehisi Coates' book explores America's history of racial injustice

imgres“Between the World and Me,” by acclaimed writer and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, is the 2016 First Year Reading Program selection.

Written as a letter to Coates’ teenage son, the book is both a tender memoir and a biting polemic that explores America’s long and persistent history of racial injustice.

Published in 2015, the book won the National Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. In her praise of the book, Toni Morrison said that Coates fills “the intellectual void” left by James Baldwin’s death.

Jill Stratton, associate dean of undergraduate residential learning, said the selection committee of faculty, staff and student members of the First Year Center Executive Board found the book poignant and powerful.

“This notion of a father writing to a son will have a resonance for incoming students leaving home,” Stratton said. “He asks his readers to ask those hard questions and that’s what we ask of our students.”

All first-year students will participate in a discussion about “Between the World and Me” this fall. The book also will be incorporated in a one-credit course focused on identity and diversity.

In a letter to incoming students, Provost Holden Thorp wrote, “ ‘Between the World and Me’ holds special significance at Washington University, where students, staff and faculty are searching for meaningful ways to address the inequities exposed by Ferguson.

“In the aftermath of Ferguson, few subjects could be more relevant to students arriving in St. Louis than the themes of Black Lives Matter, which Coates powerfully restates and personalizes. There couldn’t be a better time or place to discuss this book.”

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