Coates’s “Between the World and Me” is written as a direct address between an African American father and his son—and not just a generic African American father and son, but, we learn as we read, a very specific pair defined by family, circumstance, place, and time.
Whatever your race or gender, where, as a reader, do you locate yourself in this exchange? Where do you find yourself most engaged? Where do you feel that you, too, are being addressed or invited to respond? As you reread, mark places where you feel, as a reader, an opening in this selection. What does it mean, or what does it take, to be a reader in the face of a text like this one?
Write an essay, perhaps in the shape of a review for a magazine or newspaper, in which you consider this book’s considerable success and the demands it places on its readers.
This assignment is about what the Coates selection asks of readers. You can find a ground to respond by locating those moments in the text where you find yourself engaged, addressed, invited to respond, and open to Coates’s arguments and examples.
When I imagine that your responses might take the form of a review for a magazine or newspaper, I imagine a way for you write to a large audience, one composed of people who might or might not have read the selection.
The danger here is that you could turn this review into a retelling of the selection without writing about the demands that the selection made on you. You will need to work closely from the moments in the text that you marked as engaging, or where you felt open to Coates and invited as readers to respond to him. It’s only from these moments that you’ll be able to build arguments about the demands that the selection places on readers.