The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Dear Fellow Reader,

In case you were wondering, I am going to stretch a little bit and say that this week’s review is another category of book. This week is a memoir but it is a YA memoir. Am I cheating a bit? No. YA is different from adult especially when the author has re-issued the book specifically for YA.

In 2008, acclaimed author, Ta-Nehisi Coates gave the world his story, The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood. A description of the book was “An exceptional father-son story about the reality that tests us, the myths that sustain us, and the love that saves us.” And in 2021, he adapted the memoir for a YA audience. I was given a copy of his adaptation for review. (The usual, and unbiased review.)

The Beautiful Struggle tells Ta-Nehisi Coates’ story centering on his junior high and high school years. His parents were a major influence particularly his father Paul. Paul Coates was a Viet Nam vet and former Maryland State Coordinator of the Blank Panther Party. His father founded and directed the Black Classic Press, which specializes in republishing obscure and significant works by and about people of African descent. His printing press was in their home and the books were all around the house. Ta-Nehisi Coates tells of his fears and fights on the streets of Baltimore through his school years there. He was not a good student and was just trying to find his way. But he did have a strong guiding hand at home.

I am not the intended audience for this book. There were times that I had no idea what the terms in the book meant BUT I could infer the meaning from the context. After all, I could not be further from a young man growing up in the battleground streets of Baltimore during the crack epidemic. I did start and stop reading this book several times. But I was always drawn back to it and I did finish it. There was a lot in the story that I didn’t understand. In doing research for this review, the story comes into better light. In an interview, Mr. Coates talked about how this was the book that he would have wanted to see when he was his younger self, that where you are at 16 is not a verdict on the rest of your life. He also said that for him to look at the book at this point in his life, he is much more understanding and would have been nicer to his younger self.

So, the question is, do I recommend the book? Overall, I do recommend the book. There is much to be gained from learning about people outside your personal world. There is much to be gained from learning about the opposite sex and their fears and mistakes. There is always much to be gained about broadening your world view. Before I wrote this, I watched an interview with Mr. Coates that was from 2015 after his bestselling, award winning book Between the World and Me came out. I found it very interesting to hear him talk about his views and how they are formed from his study of history. (https://www.c-span.org/video/?328842-1/ta-nehisi-coates-discusses-between-world-me)

Thanks for reading.

About Carol Early Cooney

I love to read. I love to share my thoughts on books and hope to hear what you think also. Looking to see what books I read beyond those I write about? Check out my Goodreads!
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