We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy
by: Ta-Nehisi Coates
To Be Published: October 2017
We Were Eight Years in Power is a compilation of eight essays Coates published with The Atlantic. Each essay is preceded by an introductory chapter that explains why he wrote the piece, what was going on in his life, and how his perspective has changed since it was published. These “blog post-like” tidbits have an almost memoir-like quality to them, offering behind-the-scenes insight into the writing process and allowing Coates an opportunity to vent frustrations unconstrained by the more diplomatic, expository tone of the essays.
Inevitably this book will be compared to Coates’ award-winning Between the World and Me as they both ruminate on racial tension in the United States. But where Between the World and Me is deeply personal, raw, poetic and often bombastically esoteric, We Were Eight Years in Power feels more academic. Beautifully written and immensely powerful, it marries heavily-researched longform journalism and unapologetic sermonizing. The essays cover a wide swathe of topics that include meditations on what it means to elect a black president, brief biographies of Malcom X and the Obamas, a case for reparations, and an appeal to recognize the continuous role white supremacy has played in our nation’s history.
The title of the work references a post-Civil-War speech given by a member of the Reconstruction legislature in South Carolina. Yet, the titular “We” also echoes modern-day citizens hoping for meaningful change in the area of race relations. The parallels abound, as we too are in the midst of an intense backlash and political tidal change following the wake of progress. As we all know, those who refuse to acknowledge history are doomed to repeat it.
5 out of 5 stars: As someone who hasn’t really been following the prolific Ta-Nehisi Coates beyond his last bestseller, all of the essays were new and exciting. Veteran readers of the Atlantic may not be as impressed. Still, the reflection chapters do bring something new to the table and really tie it all together. Come what may, I will definitely be referencing this book for years to come.
// I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.