#Bookhour is an open forum twitter discussion between scholars and the publi150709_sbr_coates-cover-jpg-crop-original-originalc that takes place the last Tuesday of the month unless otherwise stated. Find out more here.

Framing our US Studies Online series, ‘Race and the Carceral State: Race Relations in the U.S. today’, editorial team member and #bookhour leader Christina Brennan hosted a discussion of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me with a panel of UK researchers in African-American literature and culture. During the discussion Dr Lorenzo Costaguta, Dr Leila Kamali, Dr Doug Field and Dr Gavan Lennon discussed the genre of Coates’ epistolary-style work and considered the implications of the book being classified as autobiography or journalism. Debates arose around the significance of US regional identity to the book, and the relation between identity politics and political protest in the US, particularly in the wake of Black Lives Matter. The panelists ended the discussion about the setting of Howard University and its implication for public reception of Between the World and Me.

Questions that led the discussion:

  1. How do we classify Between The World And Me? As journalism, essays, or another genre?
  2. Why does Coates choose the epigraphs he does (from Amiri Baraka, Richard Wright, etc.)?
  3. Coates’ narrative starts with a conversation between New York and Washington D.C. and ranges widely across the US. Do notions of region and place matter in this book?
  4. Coates describes his trips to Europe as fundamental in shaping his understanding of US racial relations. In what ways can analyses of racial relations in Europe contribute to discussions of race in the US?
  5. Does Between the World overlook African American women by focussing on damage done to the black male body?
  6. Coates depicts the cosmopolitan, highly educated “crossroads of the black diaspora” at Howard University. What does this imply for the role of less affluent classes in the struggle against state brutality?
Discussion Leaders


Dr Lorenzo Costaguta (@LCostaguta) has recently defended his PhD in the Department of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham on ideas of race and ethnicity in the American socialist movement at the end of the 19th century. He holds an MSc from LSE in Political Theory and a MA in History from the University of Turin. He is Associate Editor for the Italian blog<> and Coordinator of the PG Forum of AISNA (Italian Association of North American Studies).

Dr Douglas Field (@misbehavingmonk) is Senior Lecturer in 20th century American Literature at the University of Manchester. He is the author, most recently, of All Those Strangers: The Art and Lives of James Baldwin (OUP, 2015). He is a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement.

Dr Leila Kamali (@kamali_leila) is Lecturer in American and English Literature at King’s College London. She has published articles in Obsidian, Atlantic Studies and New Formations, and her monograph, The Cultural Memory of Africa in African American and Black British Fiction, 1970-2000, will be published by Palgrave Macmillan at the end of 2016.

Dr Gavan Lennon (@gavandtonic) is Lecturer in American Literature and Culture in the American Studies programme at Canterbury Christ Church University. His research focuses on race and the literature of the US South, especially in fiction of the segregated southern town and the way literary innovation intersects with political activism during the civil rights movement and as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. He is also co-organising the 2017 BAAS Conference (6-8 April 2017) and looks forward to seeing you all there!



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