Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Beautiful Struggle, Ta-Nehisi Coates


Full disclosure. I wrote about Ta-Nehisi in this blog about
a two years ago after reading an essay he had written in "O Magazine".
In the post, I encouraged him to write a book.
Imagine my surprise a month ago, when
I received an e-mail from him
asking me to write a review,
a request I gladly accepted.

The Beautiful Struggle
by Ta-Nehisi Coates is the first book that
I have ever read
and felt that it was incomplete because
it wasn't accompanied by a mixtape. Some Mos, Kweli,
and Lupe would be perfect.

While he doesn't have a mixtape, yet, the book contains some other
treats, jewels and all ambitious moments.

Ever since I read The Dying Ground by Nichelle Tramble,
I have been eager to see someone tackle

what it means to be a young Black man, who who daily

navigates the streets home, and school with the full blown
awareness that his life could change at any time from the
moment he steps out his door.

Ta-Nehisi's book does precisely this and more.

It opens, focusing on his brother and his father.

When reading about his father, I remembered a statement
Filthy made, which was "If you are honest as a writer, the reader
will let
you take them to another place".

Ta-Nehisi lays out the good, the bad, and the ugly for all to see,
with an almost uncomfortable honesty.

For instance, we learn about his dad, a Panther, a conscious dude,
a man who loves his family and does not take ANY sh-t from anyone.

We also learn that Pop's kept it moving. Ta-Nehisi writes,
Here is the cast of my last name. My father had seven kids by four women.
Some of us were born best friends. Some of us were born the
same year. My elders come first in ....
Our parents are human and imperfect. Ta-Nehisi captures this with
eloquence when he writes,
You could find my father at the kitchen table shaking his head at the Sunday paper, in the living room stewing over the evening news. His charges were five boys and two girls and when he died, they would be his only words. He balled his fist and hardened his face. he was called to fatherhood like a tainted preacher. The root was his own alcoholic father who seeded so many children that Dad simply lost count. He impregnated three sisters, and so Dad had stepmothers doubling as aunts.

He writes more about his dad, saying,
All of us knew he was flawed, but still he retained the aura of a prophet. On our life map , he drew a bright circle around twelve through eighteen. This was the abyss where, unguided, black boys were swallowed whole, only to emerge on corners and prison tiers.
He displays the same deft hand when discussing his brother
Big Bill. He writes,
By mere months he was my fathers first son, but he turned this minor advantage into heraldry. he began sentences with "As the oldest son..." and to turn all his younger siblings into warriors. Big Bill was never scared. He had a bop that moves the crowed and preempted beef. When bored , he'd entertain himself, cracking on your busted fade, acne or your off-brand kicks.

His description of The Knowledge- that amorphous information that bubbles up
from the concrete in the hood, that can be found thick in a barber shop on

a Saturday afternoon- is so insightful its ridiculous. He describes it, writing,
The Knowledge was taught from our lives' beginings, whether we realized it or not. Street professors presided over invisible corner podiums, and the Knowledge was dispensed. Their faces were smoke and obscured by the tilt of their Kangol's. they lectured from sacred texts like Basic Game, Applied Cool, Barbershop 101...There was the geometry of cocking the baseball cap, working theories on what jokes to laugh at and exactly how loud; and entire volumes devoted to the cross over dribble. Bill inhaled the Knowledge and departed in a sheepskin cap and gown. I cut class, slept through lectures, and emerged awkward and wrong.
In a society where we are bombarded The Black man as a Thug/Black
Man as the President Dichotomy, it is affirming to see
the evolution of a boy into a man from a standpoint that reflects
honesty and reflection.

While reading this I realized how we have very about the first
time ANY OF US heard, Criminal Minded/Kool G Rap/ Public
Enemy/NWA... Beautiful Struggle is an eloquent, gut punching
moment in this conversation, our conversation about our
hoods, our families and our music.


Read anything good lately?

Why haven't more people written about
experiencing hip hop?

Is it because we are spending all of our time
Partying and Paying the rent?

Black folks need to party less and write more?



Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

still sounds like a descent read, btw my new book is out

Aunt Jackie said...

his book sounds beautiful. I've recently been chatting up one of the old heads in Hip Hop, a pioneer in the 80's and 90's and he said what Hip was to him it doesn't exist any more...and this is from a man with a Grammy!

he stole the words from beneath my tongue.

I just read Inez of My Soul by Isabell Allende, and it was yet another masterpiece, next up is Song Yet Sung by James McBride.

Changeseeker said...

Thanks so much for writing this. It sounds like an extraordinary and beautiful book. I'm going to buy it post haste so I can read and blog on it, too.

M.Dot. said...

Song Yet Sung by James McBride.

Yo, AJ, I can't fuck with dude.
I try, and I can't.

And this is.....yeah..well. Isabell Allende, reminds me of when my soul opened up and I became enamored with, aware of and obsessed with Magic realism.

Of course what is Hip to him doesn't exist anymore.

This shit is a mess.

But it is our mess.

And we have a duty and obligation to tell our stories.
****thinks about reading the new isabelle.


Like, listening to that shit on Sunday, I instantly stopped feeling...I don't know, any kinda way about the last remnants of this break up. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNND, Filhty gone be here on Thursday, it was like god was speaking through Lenny saying, "You better receive what I have for you and stop tripping of the past.Thats a wrap ma'."

neo said...

Black folks need to party less and write more?

...maybe, just maybe.

Aunt Jackie said...

I didn't read McBride's other book, but my mother who is a huge Isabel Allende fan has recommended this one, so I'm gonna read it just to have something to talk to her about.

Ironcially I have come to Bump Badu quite loudly in my ride, although I still feel like her first tracks are slightly chaotic.

I love love love That Hump! That's my shit right there.

Luscious Librarian said...

Oh, I love to be put on to jewels like this. It happens so infrequently.

M.Dot. said...

Ironcially I have come to Bump Badu quite loudly in my ride, although I still feel like her first tracks are slightly chaotic.

YEAHHHHH. You joined us.


The Healer GOES SO hard.

And Telephone.

Man. I listen to that shit and its post puddle friday all over again.

In a good way.

M.Dot. said...

I love to be put on to jewels like this.

Being newly single I am reading like 3 -4 books a week.

Thinking imma start reviewing at least one of them.

Good to know that you would appreciate.

Anonymous said...

3 -4 books a week.

dude. i totally wish i could join you.

i am glad to hear ms. allende is doing her thing again. when she is doing her self-reflective/my daughter is dead/dying thing she lost me. ima have to check the new joint out.

thanks for the recommendation.


Anonymous said...

oh and i think it is very, very cool that dude asked you to review his work!

your fearlessness in making the net work for you is INSPIRING.


Model Minority said...

Dude...I the me and the net go hawrd as of late....Wink...nod..wink...

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