We Were Eight Years in Power
An American TragedyBook - 2017
"We were eight years in power" was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America's "first white president."
But the story of these present-day eight years is not just about presidential politics. This book also examines the new voices, ideas, and movements for justice that emerged over this period--and the effects of the persistent, haunting shadow of our nation's old and unreconciled history. Coates powerfully examines the events of the Obama era from his intimate and revealing perspective--the point of view of a young writer who begins the journey in an unemployment office in Harlem and ends it in the Oval Office, interviewing a president.
We Were Eight Years in Power features Coates's iconic essays first published in The Atlantic, including "Fear of a Black President," "The Case for Reparations," and "The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration," along with eight fresh essays that revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates's own experiences, observations, and intellectual development, capped by a bracingly original assessment of the election that fully illuminated the tragedy of the Obama era. We Were Eight Years in Power is a vital account of modern America, from one of the definitive voices of this historic moment.
* Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Praise for We Were Eight Years in Power
"Essential . . . Coates's probing essays about race, politics, and history became necessary ballast for this nation's gravity-defying moment." -- The Boston Globe
"Coates's always sharp commentary is particularly insightful as each day brings a new upset to the cultural and political landscape laid during the term of the nation's first black president. . . . Coates is a crucial voice in the public discussion of race and equality, and readers will be eager for his take on where we stand now and why." -- Booklist (starred review)
From the critics
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pg 159 For Americans, the hardest part of paying reparations would not be the outlay of money. It would be acknowledging that their most cherished myth is not real.
pg 125 Barack Obama governs a nation enlightened enough to send an African American to the White House, but not enlightened enough to accept a black man as president.
pg 62 We forget that there were those who loved that old country as it was, who did not lament the divisions but drew power from them.
pg 39 We struggle to avoid our feelings, because to actually consider all that was taken, to understand that it was taken systemically, that the taking is essential to America and echoes down through the ages, could make you crazy.
pg 10: I know now that that hunger is a retreat from the knotty present into myth and that what ultimately awaits those who retreat into fair tales, who seek refuge in the mad pursuit to be made great again, in the image of greatness that new was, is tragedy.
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