Between the World and Me Analysis

  • Between the World and Me is an epistolary work of nonfiction that takes the form of a letter from author Ta-Nehisi Coates to his fifteen-year-old son. The book-length letter is broken into three parts, and each part is accompanied by an epigraph from a prominent African American writer.
  • The book is set in six distinct locations: Baltimore, where Coates grew up; Howard University, where Coates studied; Prince George's (PG) County, where Coates and his family lived after the birth of his son; Chicago, where Coates's wife is from; New York City, where Coates established himself as a writer; and France.
  • As a writer, Coates has a deep love and knowledge of literature. He often refers to other writers and their work, as well as to rap and hip-hop artists. The list of writers mentioned in Between the World and Me includes but is not limited to Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Malcolm X.

Analysis

Literary and Cultural References

Coates mentions many different works of literature in Between the World and Me. The title derives from the Richard Wright poem of the same name, which serves as the epigraph of the book. Coates also includes an epigraph for each of the three sections of the book: the first from Sonia Sanchez, a famous poet; the second from prominent black poet and scholar Amiri Baraka; and the third from James Baldwin, author of Giovanni's Room. Coates mentions many other writers: Lucille Clifton, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Saul Bellow, Tolstoy, Robert Hayden, C. K. Williams, Carolyn Forché, Truman Capote, and Malcolm X, among others.

As a great music lover and longtime fan of rap and hip-hop, Coates refers to the music of Nas, Ice Cube, Otis Redding, Biggie Smalls, and the Wu-Tang Clan, among others. He sees Hayao Miyazaki's animated film Howl's Moving Castle with his son. One day, he reads of his friend Prince Jones's murder in

(The entire section is 620 words.)