For the new year, I made a resolution: to read at least one book a month. I typically don’t make resolutions. I also chose to do this at a time when I am most challenged for time.
Between the World and Me thus became the most appropriate book to start this endeavor.
The reason for choosing to re-read this is because of an article I had read in the New York Times. She had read the book twice and felt a different response upon completing a second reading. Would I as well?
The first time I read this book, Obama was in the White House and I felt entitled to all the change that happened and was promised. The second time I read this book, Trump asserted himself as more than a humble civil servant. And I feel threatened now moreso than before. Despite the political environment that now hangs over this country, I can’t say that I responded to Coates any differently. This is because my Black has always been questioned, my Asian looks Black, and ambiguity discomforts everyone.
What I did differently this time was write down lines from the memoir that stuck out the most. Reflecting on what I wrote, I realize how deeply concerned I am with labels. What is race. What is hate. What is Beige. What is America(n). This exercise just happens to coincide with the juncture in my life where I add steam to the push foward in my academic career. It is during this time where personal essays and statements of purpose are read and considered. How will mine be labeled?
My impression is that what lies between the world and me is the edge of discomfort. I am not the intellectual prodigy who earned degrees from Ivy. I was not born with the same privileges as my peers. I am rarely perceived as a whole but rather portioned into parts. This is what unsettles others around me. It is not obvious who I am by the sum of my parts.
What holds true is the struggle. All people experience this in different ways, and they respond to this in different ways as well. The edge of discomfort is what differentiates groups of people. No matter how many times I will read Between the World and Me, flashbacks will surface. I will see myself as a Black man at Howard. And I will always recognize that the beauty in life is discovering the answers through enduring the challenges.
The question most pressing now is what book I should read next.