- Apr 2020
David could be a terror when you got it wrong, but when you got it right—when you wrote something that made him smile—he’d make you feel like you’d hung the moon. I can remember coming to his office after closing a piece on day laborers and him looking at me and saying, “I was just talking about how fucking great your piece was this week.” I was a kid who had never felt like he’d done anything great for anyone. And it was only when working for David that I came to understand that I might actually be “good” (to say nothing of great) at anything. Part of that realization wasn’t just in what David said about my own work, but where he set the bar. David would bring in writers from Vanity Fair to hold workshops with the staff. He’d introduce me to journalists who were doing incredible work. He’d clip articles from the New Yorker or Esquire and leave them on my desk with a note attached: “This is the level of work I expect of you.”
- Jul 2015
or rather the progress of those Americans who believe that they are white,
This is such a powerful articulation--borrowed from Baldwin as the epigraph makes clear--of the social construct of whiteness.
the gap between her world and the world for which I had been summoned to speak.
A riff on the title of TNC's forthcoming book, itself a a riff on WEB Du Bois's famous description of black experience in The Souls of Black Folk (1903). As he opens that book in a chapter entitled "Of Our Spiritual Strivings":
BETWEEN me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it.
JUL 4, 2015
Hard not to relate this piece to another great statement of African American experience: Frederick Douglass's 1841 speech “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”
lose my body
I'm just trying to imagine how it might make Coates son squirm to have his dad talk to him about his body. I guess I'm squirming a bit too. I'm expecting to hear about racism, but here I'm being asked to think about a body.
- Letter to My Son
- public letters
- James Baldwin
- son and father
- African American literature
- Ta-Nehisi Coates
- W.E.B. Du Bois
- African American Literature
- white supremacy