The books Between the World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates and Liz Murray's

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Ta-nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me and Liz Murray's Breaking Nights are tales of suffering, hardship, survival, and forgiveness, both of which we experience at some stage in our lives. However, some people face more than their fair share of these difficulties. These are the experiences of people who have experienced their fair share of adversity from various backgrounds. What, in my opinion, stands out at the end is the light at the end of the tunnel. There is always promise, and things always improve in the end. Ta-nehisi paints a story of historic injustice undergone by the black race. He tells the stories of the struggle they have gone through to fit into a society that just doesn't seem to care about them or their pain. Brought up in the streets of Baltimore, he saw alot of violence, death and prisons that seemed to be built for the black man. He does, however, get away from this cycle when he goes to a good university and opens his eyes to a different world. He is, however, thrusted back into his past when a young man in his school is shot by a police officer, a charming, cultured black man, who just happened to be black. He comes to the realization that this America doesn't care for the black man. During this reading, I experienced a mixture of unhappy feelings as the issues of race have gone out of hand more times than is bearable in the society that we currently live in. This in part came as a challenge for me as I tried to grasp the concepts brought out in the book from a nuetral point of view, that is, without bias. The book is an open letter to his son, reminding him of all the struggles their people have gone through, and what they are yet to go through before freedom is actually attained. This is a part fo the reading that had a lesson to be learnt for me, which was that we ought not to downplay such issues in society until they are completely handled and put in their place, failure to which, our ways will keep falling back to the wrongs of the past.

Murray's story is a story of pain and struggle, but which ends in good things happening. She tells her personal story of being born to both drug addicted parents who also happen to be HIV positive. She tells of days of hunger, eating toothpaste to survive, living in filth, lack of a proper education and sexual abuse. In a situation where most people would end up hating their parents for bringing them into such a squalid way of life, Liz narrates how she always loved and cared for her parents and knew that they loved her too. She gets out of this cycle by leaving home at 15, managing to attend school and winning a scholarship to Harvard. It is a true story of hope and hardwork. Personally, this reading evoked a sense of postive thinking, teaching me to not always look at issues in life from a selfish point of view, but rather to take things as they come and constantly put more effort on making the best of it rather than whining on how bad the situation is.

Pain and struggle.

The main concept these two amazing stories have in common is the pain and struggle both these authors describe. Their stories may not be the same, but it is evident that life is never easy. For Ta-nehisi, it is a struggle of being black and being born in to a dangerous environment which seems to want him to fail. The America we live in today has made it almost impossible for African Americans to actually change their situations. With unexplained police brutality, which is never brought to light or justified, it is not surprising to see black people standing and fighting for their rights. All this seems to be accelerated by bigoted powers that be. Ta-nehisi shows how even young, well off young black men who cannot be said to be doing anything illegal are still targeted.

Murray's story is a bit different but the pain and struggle is common. Reading this book is definitely hard for anyone. With its detailed expression of the hunger, the challenges Liz went through, washing her mother when she was high off of the drugs, having to go to school only once in a while, watching her parents waste away right in front of her is not an easy thing. There is a lot of pain brought out in this story and though I have not gone through such issues personally, I sympathise with Murray. Young people are always thought to not have much to complain about; but with issues such as depression, divorce, lack of a support system; it makes it hard to be young and actually see a way out.


Another common concept is hope. Through the day to day struggles we go through, hope is the only thing that keeps us alive. A thought, a dream, a teddy bear or even a loved one are representations of hope. Ta-nahisi hopes that the 'Dreamers' will one day awaken from their dream and realize how their actions have completely stepped on an entire race. This hope is however a bit far fetched in my opinion. More often than not, people in a privileged position rarely give up their position until it is forcibly taken from them and they were forced to share. I believe that these Dreamers will only wake up after constantly emphasizing and reminding them of what they're doing.

Murray also exhibits a lot of hope when she decides to leave her home to live on the streets and what's more, go back to school and win a Harvard scholarship. She is the embodiment of how resilient the human spirit can be. Her story is inspirational to me and proves that no matter what, one can change their circumstances from what they are to what they want them to be.


In my view, this class and more so the books chosen for it have served as an eyeopener to the struggles of others, an inspiration, and proof of what education and knowledge can help an individual to achieve. I am glad that they were part of the reading list as they have had a great impact on my critical thinking as well as my perspective on the issues that have been clearly brought out in the readings. Reading the books, reviews and articles on the issues they address has opened my eyes to a different world that doesn't only have me at the center of it.

Works Cited

Murray, Liz. Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from

Homeless to Harvard . New York: Hyperion, 2010. 5-329

“One Woman’s Journey from Homeless to Harvard.” Talk of the Nation 9 Sept. 2010.

Coates, Ta-nehisi. Between the World and Me. Spiegel & Grau, 2015.

July 24, 2021

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