We Were Eight Years in Power

We Were Eight Years in Power

An American Tragedy

Book - 2017
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * In these "urgently relevant essays,"* the National Book Award-winning author of Between the World and Me "reflects on race, Barack Obama's presidency and its jarring aftermath"*--including the election of Donald Trump.

"We were eight years in power" was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America's "first white president."

But the story of these present-day eight years is not just about presidential politics. This book also examines the new voices, ideas, and movements for justice that emerged over this period--and the effects of the persistent, haunting shadow of our nation's old and unreconciled history. Coates powerfully examines the events of the Obama era from his intimate and revealing perspective--the point of view of a young writer who begins the journey in an unemployment office in Harlem and ends it in the Oval Office, interviewing a president.

We Were Eight Years in Power features Coates's iconic essays first published in The Atlantic, including "Fear of a Black President," "The Case for Reparations," and "The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration," along with eight fresh essays that revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates's own experiences, observations, and intellectual development, capped by a bracingly original assessment of the election that fully illuminated the tragedy of the Obama era. We Were Eight Years in Power is a vital account of modern America, from one of the definitive voices of this historic moment.

* Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Praise for We Were Eight Years in Power

"Essential . . . Coates's probing essays about race, politics, and history became necessary ballast for this nation's gravity-defying moment." -- The Boston Globe

"Coates's always sharp commentary is particularly insightful as each day brings a new upset to the cultural and political landscape laid during the term of the nation's first black president. . . . Coates is a crucial voice in the public discussion of race and equality, and readers will be eager for his take on where we stand now and why." -- Booklist (starred review)
Publisher: New York : One World, [2017]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780399590566
Branch Call Number: 973.932 COA
Characteristics: 367 pages ; 25 cm

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c
CMLibrary_gjd_0
Apr 10, 2018

Mr. Coates always teaches me something when I read his work and this book is no exception! He reminds me again and again that the world I live in is not always the same as the one he's forced to navigate. This is his best work to date; the essays when first written are often quite on point, his reflections on them even more so. I haven't quite finished yet, because honestly it takes some gumption for this white girl to make it through these situations. Please keep writing and I promise to keep reading to learn what I don't know. Thank you for your time and education!

PS Great author to take of the Black Panther comic series, Marvel was very smart indeed!!

a
AaronAardvark1940
Feb 24, 2018

Despite having read various things by black writers and about blacks, I was completely unprepared for the revelatory experience this book gave me. It is tightly reasoned, heavily researched and highly referenced, yet clearly a very emotional effort. It is a wonderful history of the author’s evolution during the eight years of the Obama presidency.
Chapter 6, “The Case For Reparations,” is the most emotionally draining and intellectually challenging section of the book for me. I recently read Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” and found the parallels between Jurgis Rudkus’ fictional experience and Clyde Ross’ real experience very disheartening, despite my previous knowledge of redlining (how little I really knew!). Shortly after reading Chapter 6, I read Rebecca Burns’ rent control essay in the March issue of In These Times, further reinforcing my distress.
For those concerned about my use of the word “black,” it is the most common nomenclature used by Coates. He uses “African American” sparingly, and his second most-used name is not one I may repeat here.
Finally, I highly recommend this book. Despite my great respect for the book and its author, I am probably too old and too white to ever absorb all of this into my Weltanschuung.

AnnabelleLee27 Jan 26, 2018

Thorough, thought-provoking, challenging, well written, and bleak. This book is a series of essays published during the Obama presidency, each with a newly written introduction - these reflective and often personal introductions were some of the best and most moving elements of the book. Coates includes a lot of fascinating historical and social context in his analysis but offers no hope, a concept which he addresses directly. I found the final section on Trump's election particularly interesting and disturbing.

w
writermala
Jan 25, 2018

This book includes eight essays, one for each year of the Obama Presidency. There is an epilogue which talks of the tragedy of electing Donald Trump. I found that I enjoyed this book much more than Coates' bestseller, "Between the world and me." The book is well researched and well presented and I now have a much better understanding of what African Americans have undergone over the last three centuries. Coates shows how important it is to offer reparations to the African Americans so they can "Catch up." Each essay touches on a different topic but the undercurrent is the same. Yes, Coates has risen from a Black author to an American author by writing this book which I thoroughly enjoyed.

JCLMELODYK Jan 16, 2018

I'm a big fan of Coates and I enjoyed his notes about his essays where he lays out in hindsight what he was thinking and grappling with when he penned the eight essays. The essays were wonderful as well but it was just really interesting to me to read his commentary on his own writing.

My two favorite essays are "This is How We Lost to the White Man" which is especially fascinating in light of all that was revealed about Bill Cosby. A bit was known to Coates at the time but not the full scale. "The Case for Reparations" is also enlightening because of the history of other reparations that Coates discusses in this essay.

lindab1111 Jan 14, 2018

Comprehensive. Well written. Thoughtful. Most chilling prediction: "Trumps legacy will be exposing the patina of decency for what it is and revealing just how much a demagogue can get away with. It does not take much to imagine another politician, wiser in the ways of Washington, schooled in the methodology of governance, now liberated from the pretense of anti-racist civility, doing a much more effective job than Trump."

vm510 Nov 30, 2017

This book of essays from Ta-Nehisi Coates is worth a read and made me think in new ways. Specifically, I saw a black conservatism I didn't know much about before. My favorite essay by far is "Why Do So Few Blacks Study the Civil War?" for its insight on revising and reframing history. Coates is skeptical and thoughtful.

v
voisjoe1_0
Nov 05, 2017

Ta-Nehisi Coates, journalist for "The Atlantic" magazine, released this book with eight of his magazine articles, one for each of eight years with the magazine. Also included for each article are eight contemporary essays, one for each of the eight articles. The highlights of the book are the long research articles "The Case for Reparations" and "The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration." I rate this book right up there with the recent books "Stamped from the Beginning" and "The Half has never been Told." Reading these three books will get you far along for you bachelor's degree with specialization in America's long history of white supremacy.

s
smithpaula
Nov 01, 2017

Not finished yet. Love this book and Coates. I need so desparately to know more of the black experience and rascism so this is helping I'm sure.

OPLJessG Oct 12, 2017

WE WERE EIGHT YEARS IN POWER revisits the best of Coates's writing in The Atlantic from the past 8 years - one for every year of Barack Obama's presidency - in the context of today. Coates doesn't mince words; we are living in a racist, imperfect time and there's no guarantee America will see that end in any of our lifetimes. President Obama's election couldn't change it, and now the country has embraced shameless, boldfaced racist rhetoric in direct response to his administration, rather than pretending it doesn't exist. The truth is that America as we know it could not exist without systemic racism built into our laws, into the very founding of the country itself. We have to acknowledge this past in order to start any reasonable discussion of racism today.

This is not a hopeful book. There are no answers within the pages. But if there was ever essential reading, this is a fine place to start.

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