The Beautiful Struggle
A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood
By Ta-Nehisi Coates
(Spiegel & Grau, Paperback, 9780385527460, 240pp.)
Publication Date: January 6, 2009
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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An exceptional father-son story about the reality that tests us, the myths that sustain us, and the love that saves us.
Paul Coates was an enigmatic god to his sons: a Vietnam vet who rolled with the Black Panthers, an old-school disciplinarian and new-age believer in free love, an autodidact who launched a publishing company in his basement dedicated to telling the true history of African civilization. Most of all, he was a wily tactician whose mission was to carry his sons across the shoals of inner-city adolescence—and through the collapsing civilization of Baltimore in the Age of Crack—and into the safe arms of Howard University, where he worked so his children could attend for free.
Among his brood of seven, his main challenges were Ta-Nehisi, spacey and sensitive and almost comically miscalibrated for his environment, and Big Bill, charismatic and all-too-ready for the challenges of the streets. The Beautiful Struggle follows their divergent paths through this turbulent period, and their father’s steadfast efforts—assisted by mothers, teachers, and a body of myths, histories, and rituals conjured from the past to meet the needs of a troubled present—to keep them whole in a world that seemed bent on their destruction.
With a remarkable ability to reimagine both the lost world of his father’s generation and the terrors and wonders of his own youth, Coates offers readers a small and beautiful epic about boys trying to become men in black America and beyond.
TA-NEHISI COATES is a blogger for TheAtlantic.com. He is a former staff writer at The Village Voice and Time, and has contributed to The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, and numerous other publications. He lives in New York City.
“Ta-Nehisi Coates is the young James Joyce of the hip-hop generation.”
“Haunting and healing . . . a splendid memoir” —Essence
“A brilliant coming-of-age story.” —People
“A remarkable, blunt portrait of an adolescence filled with danger, chaos, flaws, and tragedy . . . a love story, dispatched from the front lines of a family.”
—Time Out New York
“A searing and soulful memoir.”
—Michael Eric Dyson, author of April 4, 1968