We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates


We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy American history buffs and news junkies of all ideological backgrounds should have Ta-Nehisi Coates on their radar. Whether you love him or hate him, Mr. Coates has an uncanny ability to command the reader to consider his point of view, if only for a moment -- a power that will elate his followers and provide a welcome challenge to his critics.

Divided into eight essay chapters each with its own introduction, the book spans the whole gamut of black American history and how it is reflected back into the author's own life as a writer, a family man, and an individual. Citing news reports, primary sources, and other verifiable data, the case is laid out that the United States has systematically maintained an underclass of black Americans in the interest of preserving peace and stability for everyone else.

Critics will point out that while the essays meticulously lay out this case, the book makes no attempt to provide remedies. The author himself points this out, but refers to H.R. 40, a bill introduced year after year by Representative Conyers, to establish a commission to study the long term effects of slavery, Jim Crow, housing discrimination, "the war on drugs," etc. Presumably, the argument is that the author doesn't have the answers, but that more needs to be done to explore what those answers may be.

In a political climate that invites and celebrates self-righteous raving, We Were Eight Years in Power is calm, intellectual, and impeccably sourced. It lays out some pretty damning evidence -- but it's not ranting and raving. Mr. Coates is not necessarily trying to make you feel the same way he feels -- but he is very invested in making sure you know the same things he knows.

received via Netgalley

decafJess