Book Review: The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, And An Unlikely Road To Manhood
Publication Date: May 06, 2008
Imprint: Spiegel & Grau
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC
Book Reviewed by Thumper
In an effort to expand my reading to non-fiction titles, as
well as the fact that the book is small in size, I read The
Beautiful Struggle, a memoir, by Ta-nehisi Coates. The book
covers Coates journey to manhood from his earliest memories to
his high school graduation and how his father, publisher
Coates guided him through it. The Beautiful Struggle is a
book I wish was written and published when I was growing up. The
Beautiful Struggle is a beautiful, poignant and timely book that
will one day be held in the same high esteem as
Pimp by Iceberg Slim and Manchild in the Promise Land by
Fair warning: I apologize if the published result of this review does not resemble what a review should be. It has taken me a little over a week to decide what direction to take this review and I've come to the conclusion that I would just ’spill gut’ and let whatever hit the floor, lie there exposed for the entire world to see. The reason for my immobility, for lack of a better word is that the book is so ME! The Beautiful Struggle, to me, is the lyrics to the song ’Killing Me Softly’ come to life. Changing a few details; such as the author Coates is approximately 5 years younger than me and we lived in different states. The Beautiful Struggle is MY story. The similarities are spooky. Although my father was not a publisher nor worked in the field of academia like the author's father Paul Coates; he was a man, with his own faults, who knew he had to raise his sons to be black men.
The first similarity is that my father, like the author’s, was PRESENT! Second, when it came to me, my father had to find a way to get inside my head, for I, like Coates, had my own view of the world. My paternal grandmother once told me when I was around 11 or 12 years old that I liked my own company too much. She was right.
Like the author, one of my problems was fighting, or the lack thereof. I spent a good deal of my younger years consistently steering clear of fighting because the idea of pain simply wasn't an option I wanted to explore. Then one day, my father gave me the same talk that the elder Coates gave the author, almost verbatim, ’you're gonna either fight that little big headed motherfucka across the street or you gonna have to fight me’. Well, maybe not verbatim, but the meaning was the same. Needless to say, I fought the big headed MF across the street and once I started fighting, I had a hard time stopping.
Ironically, the author caught the reading bug around the same age I caught it. The only difference between us then was that he had all of those books, those wonderful books around him because of his father. All I had was my mother's Sidney Sheldon books until I discovered Agatha Christie and To Kill a Mockingbird. I would have given anything to have had the ability to twitch my nose to swap places with Coates and have been surround by his father's books.
Again, similar to the author, I didn't really care for school. It wasn't that I couldn't handle the work, I just wasn't interested. I was acting a fool, until I discovered engineering through a summer Minority in Engineering program that was hosted by Purdue University and it changed my attitude toward school.
While Coates is telling his story, he is also relating his older brother, Bill, manhood journey as seen through a little brother's eyes. Coates was able to compare or contrast his brother's journey with their father being the axis in which their two worlds revolved.
Most importantly, what I can say about the book is that I was MOVED! I would have given anything to have had a book such as The Beautiful Struggle when I was a kid. The fact that I was not alone and maybe I was not the only oddball would have meant the world to me. I recommend The Beautiful Struggle. If you have a son or know of a young man that loves to read, I can think of no other book to give him.