Category Archives: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Hot Air

Timing My Tomes

It’s my practice not to read new books. I don’t want to get all caught up in the hoopla over something that turns out to be dreck or worse. I wait a few years and then read those books that’ve stood the test of time. With that in mind, here are the titles from this year’s New York Times 100 Notable Books that I fully intend to read by the year 2025:

● City on Fire, by Garth Risk Hallberg

A novel about the dark side of New York City in the mid-70s. Remember that time? NYC, to the rest of the inhabitants of this holy land, was a garbage-strewn, drug-infested, shithole better off being wiped off the face of the Earth. Then 9/11 happened and everybody pretended to love the place.

● Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff

A picture of a marriage from the POVs of both the wife and the husband. I look forward to discovering how Groff handles it.



● Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years, by Thomas Mallon

This is a weird choice for me. I read Mallon’s novel of Watergate, entitled — duh — Watergate. It stunk, revealing nothing new and being painfully short on drama and suspense. Still, Reagan fascinates me so I’m willing to give Mallon another chance.

● Leaving Berlin, by Joseph Kanon

A Cold War thriller set in East Berlin. The world came thisclose to blowing itself up over the once and future German capital back in the late 1950s and early 60s, so a fictional peek into that time and place ought to be a good one.

● Mislaid, by Nell Zink

Described as a “screwball comic novel” about family dynamics, race, and sexuality. Okay, I’m game.

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● The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy

A debut novel chronicling a Detroit black family. I’m interested to see what Detroit will become in the future. Will blacks and the poor be driven out by opportunistic gentrifiers? Will it continue to slide into hopelessness and squalor? Will it be a model city for a resurrected, dynamic black culture? Perhaps this book’ll provide a clue or two.

● Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates, who spoke at Indiana University in October, writes a book-length letter to his son and refuses to bullshit him.

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● Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery, by Henry Mersh

The neurosurgeon details surgeries and considers the moral and societal implications of same.

● Empire of Cotton: A Global History, by Sven Beckert

The cotton trade has given us inexpensive, dependable clothing as well as slavery, war, notions of racial superiority and other ills.

● Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America, by Jill Leovy

Are the cops killing black men all out of proportion to the victims’ population numbers? If so, why?

● Negroland: A Memoir, by Margo Jefferson

The author grew up in Chicago’s refined, upper-middle-class black enclave. As such, she was simultaneously admired, envied, privileged, discriminated against, and shunned.



● Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, by Steve Silberman

Autism has been ill-defined and misunderstood since it was first described by medical and psychological experts. What if the truth is we’re all on the spectrum?

Now the question will be, which of the aforementioned titles will turn out to be a dud? If any does, at least I won’t have wasted precious hours and days reading it.


Hot Air

Big Shots; Small Town

Despite all the efforts of Indiana University boss Michael McRobbie and his viceroy, Mark Kruzan, to turn Bloomington into a gargantuan megalopolis along the lines of, say, Karachi or Lagos, this burgh still remains, to some little extent, a small town.

From "The Andy Griffith Show"

Long Gone, Mostly

To wit: Yesterday while The Loved One and I enjoyed a spectacular dinner of grilled swordfish (still on sale at Kroger for $7.99 a pound!) at a neighbor’s home, Bloomington chief of police Mike Diekhoff rang the bell and delivered a still-warm plate of berry cobblers made from scratch by his lively bride, Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Mary Ellen Diekhoff. And even though our hosts had promised their own homemade key lime pie, we felt compelled to dig into the cobblers as well after finishing up all our vegetables.

It was a decision none of us regretted.

Don’t Tread On My Slave Trade

So, after gushing about how fab this holy land is yesterday, I’m back to pointing out the chinks in our Armor All™.

One historian specializing in African American studies presents a fascinating argument that the American Revolution was more a war to preserve slavery than a landmark for liberal governance in human history. Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman last week interviewed Gerald Horne of the University of Houston. Horne posits that the British were close to pushing for abolition in the colonies in the lead up to the Revolution. Reps of the slave colonies became panicky, acc’d’g to Horne’s argument, and thus the decision was made to take up arms against the King.

George III

George III: Abolitionist

I imagine the landed slaveholders of Virginia, Georgia, et al might have been driven to join the cause of independence because of the Crown and Parliament’s burgeoning anti-slave sentiments, but I doubt one can credit/blame the entire Revolution on the effort to preserve the slave trade.

Nevertheless, Horne’s is a needed exploration of how important slavery was to some of the Colonies back around 1776. Check out Goodman’s tête-à-tête with Horne here. Then you might follow up by reading Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ call for reparations in a recent issue of The Atlantic magazine.