A collection of 8 essays, written between 2008 and 2016 with added contemporary introductions to each, from the National Book Award–winning author of Between the World and Me, reflecting on race, Barack Obama’s presidency and its jarring aftermath—including the election of Donald Trump, and his own evolution as a writer.
We Were Eight Years in Power is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s modern book of lamentations — of a nation’s hope in tatters and change stifled by bigotry emboldened ... Coates maps his own career path from unknown blogger to revered journalist invited by Obama 'into the Oval Office to bear witness to history.' His professional ascension, including his National Book Award-winning bestseller, Between the World and Me, coincided with Obama’s presidency, and this was not a coincidence. Too many people who should have known better declared Obama’s election as the Big Bang of a post-racial America, and Coates’s probing essays about race, politics, and history became necessary ballast for this nation’s gravity-defying moment ... After spending much of this essential book looking backward, Coates stares squarely at our chaotic present in his most recent essay, 'The First White President.' It’s a scorching takedown of Trump, his calamitous presidency, and his open embrace of racism, something in which he was well versed long before he moved into the White House.
These essays are a cross section of Coates’ work that, read with the distance of time, reveal the shifts in his thinking, even as they cover familiar concerns and questions. They also show a broadening of his perspective ... This volume serves to address other criticisms. The charge that Coates is a pessimist, all but disengaged from politics, is belied by his keen interest in compensatory justice, even if he’s doubtful of its ultimate success. The charge that Coates is writing primarily for guilty white liberals becomes laughable on its face: If Coates is writing for anyone besides himself, it is for other black people, a fact you can glean from his subjects and preoccupations ... We Were Eight Years in Power is more than a 'loose memoir'; it’s Coates giving himself a deep read, and inviting us to join him in this look at his intellectual journey. And by showcasing a range of essays—some his strongest work, others deeply flawed—he asks his readers to consider him as a writer, nothing more and nothing less.
The essays gathered in Ta-Nehisi Coates’s latest book, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, demand that we see the black-American experience as not incidental but central to the founding stories that makes America possible ... Coates’s writing is consistently nuanced and precise, always limited to what the writer can pull out of his own story, out of another’s, out of the archives, or out of a database ...provide a too-rare peek into the processes of a first-rate mind conversing with itself and of a man writing his way to greatness ... This book will not provide all of us with resolutions to the United States’s woes. But it is one essential modern work for a complete understanding of the American democratic process, because it is central to American storytelling.