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Augie Reads summer essay

Welcome to Augustana College! This summer you will read the book "Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates and write a short essay about it. You’ll bring a copy of your finished essay to the first day of your FYI/FYH 101 class. We look forward to discussing the book with you when you step onto campus as a first-year student this fall.

About the book

"Between the World and Me" is in the form of a letter from the author, Ta-Nehisi Coates, to his adolescent son. In the letter, the author reflects on his own life to make sense of what it means to be black in the United States.

Coates is a distinguished writer in residence at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. He has worked as a journalist, written for Marvel Comics (including runs of Black Panther and Captain America), and written several books. "Between the World and Me" won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2015.

The essay assignment

Throughout "Between the World and Me," Ta-Nehisi Coates repeats several key terms and phrases to help readers better understand both his own past and our larger society. In a two- to three-page essay, explain what Coates means by one of these concepts and how his understanding of it changes over time. Use specific passages from the text to support your argument, and include page numbers whenever you cite the text.

Choose ONE of the following concepts to address in your essay. (Next to each concept is one representative passage from the book. However, to explain how Coates’ understanding changes over time, you’ll need to use multiple passages from throughout the book.)

the black body: “America understands itself as God’s handiwork, but the black body is the clearest evidence that America is the work of men” (12).

reading and/or writing: “Your grandmother taught me to read when I was only four. She also taught me to write, by which I mean not simply organizing a set of sentences into a series of paragraphs, but organizing them as a means of investigation” (29)

struggle: “The Struggle is in your name, Samori — you were named for Samori Touré, who struggled against French colonizers for the right to his own black body” (68)

whiteness: “The belief in the preeminence of hue and hair... is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white” (7)

Note that your instructor does not expect you to have completely mastered the book. Your instructor does expect that you give your best effort to this challenging task.

Finally, although this essay won’t include your reaction or response to Coates’ ideas, you will have the chance to share your opinions in further FYI/FYH 101 discussions and assignments. To give greater weight to those opinions, though, you first need to demonstrate understanding of what Coates is saying.

To help you to better understand Coates and his book, please use our library resources guide.