#FuturisticFriday Review: We Were Eight Years in Power

October 18, 2017 Uncategorized 12 ★★★★★

#FuturisticFriday Review: We Were Eight Years in PowerTitle: We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy
Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Summary: Brilliant, beautiful, thought-provoking, highly recommended.

This is a collection of essays Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote, one per year, while Obama was president. Each is a preceded by an introduction from the author, describing the context for the essay, including both where he was in his personal life and where we were politically. In this intro sections, he also talks about his writing process and what he thinks of his essays now that some time has passed. The author wraps up with a new essay including his thoughts on Trump’s election.

This is one of those books that is so good, it’s hard to do it justice in a review. Compared to Between the World and Me, I found this a more challenging read. Between the World and Me required me to think about every sentence, but it was short and personal and it mostly affected me emotionally. This was obviously a much longer book. It was still personal, but it addition to sharing the author’s perspective, it included a lot of information about politics. It also built a lot on the philosophies of previous important black authors and thought leaders on the topic of race. I’m not nearly as familiar with this earlier material as I should be, so while Coates gave me all the information I needed to understand the points he made, it was harder to follow.

As in Between the World and Me, Coates writing is beautiful, powerful, spellbinding. The density of ideas and emotions in his writing is overwhelming. Some of the ideas he explored were less novel than others, but reading this still made me think about them in more detail and in new ways. For example, it’s sadly not news that the Southern side of the civil war is still glorified in the south. I was less aware of the fact that many civil war histories present the war as a tragedy and I certainly hadn’t thought through what this meant. Spoiler – one of the things it means is that the civil war, which should be seen as a great triumph over slavery leading to freedom for black Americans, instead is officially presented as a tragedy for white people. Other ideas were more new to me, including the intro in which Coates writes about fear of black respectability, which challenges racist views more than the idea of black violence that racists claim to fear. This was a heavy, thoughtful, brilliant, exhaustive and exhausting work to read and digest, but well worth it. Highly recommended.

12 Responses to “#FuturisticFriday Review: We Were Eight Years in Power”

  1. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    The history of the Civil War is so complicated and I need to know more about it. I’m reading White Trash right now which illuminates some other sides. One thing we don’t really realize is that many people were against slavery not because it was wrong for black people to be enslaved, but because they felt it hurt WHITE PEOPLE economically and socially.

    And I don’t think it’s wrong to see the war as a tragedy. It was a tragedy that it had to be fought in the first place. But I suppose you mean the histories describe the Confederate loss as a tragedy, and that just goes to show that it didn’t really do much to change people’s attitudes.

    Anyway, I was wondering about this book and your recommendation definitely makes it sound worth reading.

    • DoingDewey

      Interesting! I’d not heard that some people opposed slavery because the believed it was bad for white people too. I’ll be excited to read your review of White Trash when you’re done with it!

      I was a little nervous talking about the civil war bit in my review, because I don’t want to misrepresent the book in my short take on it! I definitely didn’t think Coates had a problem with any war being described as a tragedy. What it called to mind from my own experience at civil war sites are summaries that have ‘there were good people on both sides’ kind of take on it, where they focus on the tragedy of the loss of so many American lives on both sides and don’t focus as much on the fact that the war led to the end of slavery.

      I definitely think this was a worthwhile read and would love to talk about it if you pick it up!

  2. Jenny @ Reading the End

    Oh, yeah, I’m really looking forward to this one. Coates has written a couple of incredible pieces lately, and it’s reminded me of how good he is when he’s on top of his game. Even when I don’t fully agree with him, he’s so eloquent and so good at constructing an argument. It’s impressive as hell.

  3. Heather

    I need to get to Between the World and Me, I’m ashamed that I haven’t read it yet. After that, I’ll read this one, too.

    • DoingDewey

      There are so many good books, it’s hard to get to them all! Between the World and Me is definitely worth it when you get the time 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      Awesome! I think I’d recommend reading Between the World and Me first. It’s a much faster read and had equal impact, if in a different way.

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