Book Review: We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy
I absolutely love Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I think its one of the most powerful books I've ever read. I actually just recently finished it for the second time and found it even more amazing on a second read. I blind bought We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy without hearing or reading anything on it. That was a mistake. Not because it's a bad book, because its far from that; but ts a collection of Coates essays through Obama's eight years in office that he wrote for The Atlantic. Unfortunately, I had already read a couple of them before picking up this book.
The eight essays that lay out the eight years of Obama's presidency aren't all about Obama. There's one about the prison system, another about reparations, and another about Bill Cosby. Each is written in the elegant Coates fashion that combines intellectual thought with personal observation. As someone who loves to write, I admire Coates ability to weave a narrative without overwhelming the reader with too much. I especially loved his essay on reparations, one in which he lays an elegant case that even if we don't pay reparations as a country we should sure as heck look into it, study it, and understand it. Throughout all of the essays there's a hope in Obama but also a realization that having a black President doesn't mean the world's problems are solved and in fact the election of Trump is a perfect example of a reaction to having the first black President.
We Were Eight Years in Power is both similar and vastly different from Between the World and Me. There are moments where you get the hard repetition that you see in Between the World and Me in his essays. But as these were written for The Atlantic there isn't as much of it. There are also signs towards the end of this collection of essays where you can start to see some of the themes of that book pop up in his essays and even in conversations he has with President Obama. But probably because of a recency bias, his essay which I read when he first published it, The First White President is one of the most profound things I've ever read.
I didn't find We Were Eight Years in Power as compelling as his letter to his son in Between the World and Me, and yet I still loved it. Coates has such an interesting perspective and one that constantly challenges my own beliefs and views on our country. I think had I not read a lot of these essays before that this book would have hit me a lot harder. Even still I loved going back and re-reading some of the most eloquent essays I've ever read.