The Beautiful Struggle

The Beautiful Struggle

A Father, Two Sons, and An Unlikely Road to Manhood

Book - 2008
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Paul Coates was an enigmatic god to his sons: a Vietnam vet who rolled with the Black Panthers, an old-school disciplinarian and new-age believer in free love, an autodidact who launched a publishing company in his basement dedicated to telling the true history of African civilization. Most of all, he was a teacher, storyteller, and tactician, whose mission was to carry his sons through the shoals of inner-city adolescence--by any means necessary--and into the safe arms of Howard University, where he worked so that his kids could attend for free. Among his brood of seven, his main challenges were Ta-Nehisi, the spacey, overly sensitive nerd who needed to be equipped to survive his environment, and Big Bill, the charming hustler who took all too easily to the temptations in the streets. The Beautiful Struggle tells the story of their divergent paths through a turbulent decade and their father's steadfast--if sometimes eccentric--schemes to keep them from failing. Ta-Nehisi Coates combines a beautifully rendered evocation of the terrors and wonders of growing up in Baltimore in the 1980s--the age of crack, when murder rates hit historic highs, but also an era when the black community improvised the resources with which to save itself--with a humorous and affectionate portrayal of a family led by a maverick patriarch. Like James McBride's The Color of Water, Coates's memoir offers an original take on the eternal but beautiful struggle between parent and child.
Publisher: New York : Spiegel & Grau, 2008
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780385520362
Branch Call Number: B C6326C 2008
Characteristics: 227 pages : map ; 22 cm


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Feb 24, 2017

"When crack hit Baltimore, civilization fell." Before he became the celebrated author of "Between the World and Me" and a constantly provocative and intelligent writer for "The Atlantic," Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote about growing in Baltimore. "The Beautiful Struggle" is a classic coming of age tale in some sense, but his experiences are often more intense, as he lives in community beset by drugs, violence, and broken homes. His demanding father, a former Black Panther, is an important part of the story, as is his more reckless brother. Coates writes in a vivid, vernacular manner that is different from his more polished "Atlantic" style. As with so much of his writing, race is a key and perhaps no contemporary writer is as incisive and nuanced on the subject. I'd also recommend "The Residue Years."

Oct 12, 2015

Heard such good things about Between the World and Me and heard a great interview with Coates that intrigued, but couldn't get into this one... didn't finish it. Will check out the new book and his other writings/speeches!

Aug 11, 2015

(2nd reading, new library) In 2014, I read an extended article about the long, long history of WHITE supremacy in America, by Ta-Nahisi Coates (June 2014 Atlantic magazine). Explored are 250 yrs of slavery, 90 yrs of Jim Crow, 60 yrs of separate but equal and 35 years of racist housing policy. WHITES just wish that Coates would forget it all and not remind everybody about it. When I saw this book, I got it to find out a little more about this newer African-American “investigative journalist”. Coates’ Baltimore environment, described in the book, would never suggest that Coates would ever make it out alive, let alone write the Atlantic magazine article. We all should remember, Baltimore, where Coates was born and raised, was and still is a bastion of WHITE supremacy (where in 2015 cops rough ride a black man until he is dead- a la 20th century lynchings).

voisjoe1 Jun 03, 2014

Once I saw the brilliant and extensive May21st Atlantic magazine article about the 400 year history of white economic exploitation of African-Americans, I sought out this book by its author Ta-Nehisi Coates. After reading this book, I now realize that the probabilities of somebody coming from Coates’ childhood, to develop such a great article, is mighty, mighty small. In fact the chance of coming out alive and then actually getting into college in itself should be miniscule. Yeah, but every now and then, somebody from almost impossible circumstances manages to succeed, but rarely at the high level as Coates’ Atlantic magazine article. Do not attempt this book unless you have knowledge of African-American history, culture and literature. If you are new to these subjects, get some background from Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Alice Walker or Toni Morrison. Coates flavors his prose with a lot of street language and culture which will just frustrate the uninitiated.


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