In my circles, expressing qualified approval for the President is rare; it feels as if progressive credibility requires disavowing the promise of hope that Obama's election embodied in 2008. Thinking well of Obama is for suckers. Coates is not towing that line, in either the black or white version.
Bomani Jones tossed questions at Coates:
I agree; we're going to miss Obama and we are beginning to feel it. While we've got him, let's criticize, but also appreciate.
But a cheap used copy came to hand and I picked it up. I'm not going to try to describe the book. It's a short, approachable, meditative soliloquy on Coates' unfolding black male life. Toni Morrison calls the writing "visceral, eloquent, and beautifully redemptive." The book consists of Coates striving, in public, for the benefit of a son he adores, to speak truthfully. The result can seem harsh, but Coates believes that truth requires such rigor.
Here's a snippet about what he learned about survival growing up in a broken Baltimore neighborhood in the crack era.
In the Playboy interview, Coates responds to the notion that he is "pessimistic." In the book, he simply tries to tell the truth as he understands it about the condition of black Americans:
Coates is at pains to distance himself from any of the available spiritual traditions to which many around him have recourse. But he bravely confronts the Sisyphus-like reality that he believes is his. And no, it's not just pretentious. The guy is too down home for that.