Books In Black & White

It was a big week for books in the USA, if not for race relations. The release of Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman on the same day as Between the World & Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates was a delicious irony that highlighted a sad truth. We are divided. Even on books.

In a more enlightened USA, Coates and Lee would have done the talk show circuit together, two generations illuminating the nation with their conversation. But that's not realistic because Lee can barely talk at this point and Coates is patently not interested. She is very old and some suspect Go Set is just a first draft of To Kill A Mockingbird resuscitated for the good of Lee's estate, now doing damage to her reputation. Meanwhile, Coates has never read Lee's classic and expresses doubts as to why white people would read him. 

This begs two questions. Does he consider reading a racial activity and does this make him more like the characters in Lee's novels than he might like? On the first point, Coates is not alone. There were two conversations about books this week on social media -- a black one and a white one -- and rarely did the twain meet.

Perhaps understandably. Because awkward. Lee drops an N-bomb in the third sentence of her new book -- no, not that one, but still, people should have been less thrilled. The delight of white people over Watchman at this juncture only proves Coates' points about a biased society. 

Regardless, all the buzz generated by smart marketing teams to drive us, whatever color, to buy books, worked. Certainly it did on me. But by the time I got to the bookstore, the chatter made reading these works seem not to matter. So I got The Sorrow Proper, a novel about the end of the library system, which we can probably agree is sad for readers of all races.