Saturday, December 19, 2015
The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The stories that are being written today from Jesmyn Ward to Kiese Laymon to Robert Peace to Ta-Nehisis Coates are exposing to the world that not all Black people are the same. And, as much as people want to put us in a box, the stories that are being written today are exposing that Black folks are not all the same.
Reading Coates coming of age novel, The Beautiful Struggle, I thought a lot about my own coming of age, and I wish my coming of age was as fascinating at Coates, but it wasn’t....
Coates was raised by a father who was a member of The Black Panther Party and a “practicing facist” who did not allow his children to eat meat, participate in any type of holiday or religion, a man who did not spare his children the rod, he thought that Ghandhi was absurd and praised John Brown, he started doing the work of restoring Black scholar's work that had been lost, and he filled his family's house with books like Black Boy, Manchild in the Promised Land, and Another Country.
His mom was an educated woman who was “conscious” like her husband: “She went natural in high school... at college she was arrested for protesting," and it seemed inevitable that she would marry a man like Coates’ father who was also “conscious,” and they would put their children in programs like Upward Bound and send their kids to The Mecca: Howard University.
Coates tell his story of trying to find his way while being raised in a household where it appears that his parents expected him to be tough, but he couldn’t always hold his own on the streets; a household where having good grades was valued, but he had a difficult time “getting" school, but he read the books that his father had in the house and became “conscious.” Coates eventually graduated from high school and ventured off to The Mecca, Howard University, and the rest is history!
Reading this books, and seeing how Coates' life unfolds, I couldn’t help but to think about the idea that parents are constantly changing and evolving as they are raising children. The children are at the whim of whatever their parents think is important and it appears that Coates’s parent, much like my parents and your parents, were trying to find themselves and their place in the world, while also trying to shape the lives of their children. So, it seems that all of this growing and changing makes parenting an imperfect art.
I am learning that growing into your own takes a very long time and change is the only thing that is constant... We may have to give our parents a little break on some of the decisions that they made that many of us may see as mistakes. Coates quotes that “Even after I got conscious, I felt robbed of time, that I had been isolated from a series of great childhood events. In my father’s house, values ripped us from the crowd. Dad called it enlightenment. But to me it just felt lonely.” I wonder what his Dad thinks of this quote?
So, I guess Coates, and most of us who are of age, are now critically thinking about our childhoods and may be teaching our children a few different values than what we were taught. However, we will never know how any of this will play out until our children closely examine their own lives.
Now, if you have read Between the World and Me by Coates, this book will give great insight into why he thinks the way that he does. If you have not read Between the World and Me, you must.
This book confirms that we are all the sum of our experiences....
READ this lyrical novel to hear another perspective of coming of age while Black in America.