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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
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.
About the Author
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a former staff writer at The Village Voice and Time
and has contributed to The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, O,
and numerous other publications. He lives in New York City.
The Beautiful Struggle
A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Spiegel & Grau (Random House)
Hardcover, 227 pages