How Empowering Is Coates’s Between the World and Me?

Required Reading

  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me. A scanned copy of this reading is posted in the Canvas Module for Readings.
  • Randall Kennedy, “A Caricature of Black Reality.” A link to this book review, which was published in The American Prospect, is in the Canvas Module for Week Five.
  • Michelle Alexander, “Ta-Nehisi Coates’s ‘Between the World and Me.’” A link to this New York Times book review is in the Canvas Module for Week Five.
  • “They Say / I Say,” Chapters 6-7 (pp. 77-100), and Chapters 14-15 (pp. 176-204).
  • For information on how to use the MLA style to cite and document sources, please see the MLA Style section of Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL).


  • Length:  4-5 pages of double-spaced 12-point font.
  • Format:  Use the MLA format for in-text citations, and include an MLA-formatted Works Cited page.  
  • Working Thesis Statement due: Thursday, 10/25
  • First Draft due: Tuesday, 10/30. Bring three typed copies to class.  
  • Second Draft due: Thursday, 11/1.
  • Final Draft Due: Friday, 11/2. Submit via Canvas. 


The authors of “They Say / I Say” emphasize that good writing comes from entering into a conversation with other writers. For this assignment, you are to enter into the conversation sparked by Randall Kennedy and Michelle Alexander’s reviews of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me. These reviews encourage us to ask, “How empowering—or disempowering—is the message of Coates’s book, especially for young people concerned about social justice?”

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