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We Were Eight Years in Power

We Were Eight Years in Power

An American Tragedy

Book - 2017 | First edition.
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LPL_ShirleyB Aug 27, 2020

Coates reveals the prevalence of racism in this country within the context of President Obama’s 2 terms and throughout our history. This book feels urgent with the election so near and should be required reading. The reality of injustice is difficult to face, but denial is getting us nowhere!
“An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future.” ― Ta-Nehisi Coates
The reader for this audiobook was skilled at using many different intonations for the many quotes featured within these pages.

Aug 11, 2020

This is another book that I felt was essential to read right now with the renewed attention towards the Black Lives Matters movement. This book is a compilation of some of Coates’ essays, therefore you do not need to read the whole book, or even the chapters in order. However, each one is more moving than the last, and I highly suggest reading all of them. Personally, my favourite was in the 6th “year” (chapter), with the essay, The Case for Reparations. The thing about this book is that yes, it is somewhat opinionated, but everything is backed up by statistics, facts, interviews, and personal narrative, making it really hard to ignore all of the things being said. I fully believe that everyone should read this book, it has impacted my thoughts and day-to-day actions an unfathomable amount (more than any other piece of literature ever has). 5/5
@LucindatheGreen of the Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

Mar 13, 2020

Well written, a lot of research went into Coates' work. It covers a lot of important history that I never saw in my history courses, which focused on white American exceptionalism. He validated a lot of what I saw from my own viewpoint during President Obama's time in office. I do recommend you read this book.

Nov 27, 2019

Along with Ibram X. Kendi, Ta-Nehisi Coates is the most penetrating and intelligent writer on race and racism in America. Following up his instant classic "Between the World and Me," this brings together 8 of his article from "The Atlantic," including his most famous (and divisive) piece, "The Case for Reparations," as well as his requiem for the Obama years, "My President was Black" and "Fear of a Black President." Coates his written new introductions and an epilogue. You might disagree with him, you might find him too "angry," but you have to read him. His newest book is a novel.

STPL_JessH Sep 13, 2019

I'm usually weary about essay collections of previously published material. In this case, I really enjoyed the commentary before each essay and it almost made up for the many moments of repetition. I mean really, how many times do we need to see that Newt Gingrich quote?!

I appreciate that Coates faces the contradictions in his writing and offers frank appraisal when references were missed in the original works. It was also clear to see his growth as a writer over the course of these eight essays. I loved his call out at the end of the Epilogue. Despite my complaints about this book, I really enjoyed it and will come back to it again.

That said, I agree with Roxane Gay's review that there is "a glaring absence of reckoning with the intersection of race and gender." Coates is a gifted and passionate writer. Imagine what we could read if his writing included a deconstruction of gender and really wrestled with the influence gender norms, expectations, and oppression continue to have in daily life, especially when they intersect with race.

Apr 07, 2019

ta-nehisi coates calls donald trump the "first white president". if this were true, it would indeed be of interest. however, coates fails to mention that, of all the presidents, only two have NOT been white: the african-american barack obama, and the chinese grover cleveland. this seems like a big oversight, and made me doubt the veracity of some of his other research. what's funny is that this is a book about race, and i had to "race" to finish it before it was due back at the library. i'm kind of a slow reader

meeshmorgan Feb 23, 2019

A FIVE star searing book!
I grew up as a white girl in inner-city LA and I know the difference between poverty and poverty consciousness. I imagined I knew what it might be to be poor and black. I knew nothing!
This book lays bare facts I dimly comprehended as well as explaining the unfathomable appointment of Donald Trump.
I found this grueling and upsetting to read, but I struggled through it although gaining such insight was painful making me feel furious and helpless. Yet, I was only reading this, NOT experiencing it!
My education began with Malcolm Gladwell's Blink and other books by Gladwell and progressed with Ta -Nehisi Coates.

Feb 21, 2019

We, were eight years in power and I am white?
I trusted Coates narrative when he wrote of his own!
This tears st the very fabric of trust as a people We is different, for different people today and going forward!
There must be Respect for one another and Trust! As a Society WE need to talk and I believe this book shuts down future conversation.

Dec 03, 2018

Pieces from the author's 8 years at The Atlantic plus framing and introductions for each article emphasizing its place in the author's career and life. Much better book than Between the World and Me -- probably because the author's self-involvement, being largely confined to the personal "packing material," doesn't intrude as much on the actual essays and reporting. Chapter 6 on reparations is the most famous, but Coates claims that Chapter 8, "My President Was Black," is his favorite. That is a pretty good article if one is willing to admit that it shows Obama to be a better political and moral thinker than Coates -- which I'm not sure was Coates's intention or view! I think that the best chapters are Chapter 5, "Fear of a Black President," and Chapter 7, "The Black Family in the Age of Incarceration," the longest and best researched. After reading those chapters, I was ready to rate the book as 4 1/2 or 5 stars. But then I read the one-sided and strained arguments of the last part of the Epilogue; they were so cranky (in all senses of that word) that they knocked my rating down to 4 stars. Still -- a very worthwhile book.

jr3083 Oct 16, 2018

This book is a compilation of long-form essays, one for each of the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency. Each essay is prefaced with a 2018-dated reflection on the article and the circumstances in which it was written. There is a dialogue going on at two levels: Coates explaining and challenging himself as author at an earlier time, and the laying out of an argument from author to reader in the essay itself. ...
I don’t know whether Coates “grew into” himself as a writer, or whether there is a qualitative difference between the earlier essays in this book and the ones that came later. Perhaps the opening chapters were more current (at the time), or required a familiarity with Black History which I don’t have. For me, as a reader, the intensity of his writing really cranked up with his essay from the Fifth Year, ‘Fear of a Black President.’ This chapter was followed by his Atlantic cover story ‘The Case For Reparations’, which was awarded the George Polk Awards. Here, he demonstrates the structural basis of racism in passionate, logical, informed writing. He extends the argument into his Seventh Year article ‘The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration’. The final chapters reflect the sorrow that twenty-first century ‘eight years’ have led to Trump and such a vulgar reassertion of white supremacy. For this is just how Coates calls it – structural racism to bolster white supremacy – without any liberal loopholes....
These are excellent exemplars of the long form essay, running in some cases to over fifty pages in length. They show the shuttling of an argument from the personal to the political and back again, and the balancing of data and anecdote.

For my complete review see

Jul 12, 2018

An absolutely searing book, cogently and starkly laying out the history of oppression that has led to the massive inequalities in the American state. The painful history of structural racism against the black community is documented extensively in Coates' lucid prose. A must read.

May 15, 2018

This was an amazing book

CMLibrary_gjd 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!!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

JCLJessG 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.

Sep 25, 2017

I have not read this yet, but did read some of those essays in The Atlantic, not a mag I would recommend - - last really decent story in there was back in 1973 or thereabouts.
This fellow falls into the extremely large class of writers/pundits who believe the politician is at the head of the food chain - - still cannot believe such ignorance and gullibility exists today, but that is part and parcel of the massive pop culture indoctrination to that effect.
The Clintons and Obama, were [are??] owned by BlackRock [an offshoot of the Blackstone Group, founded with Rockefeller family seed money] or at least its proxies. Hillary Clinton's chief advisor [was her name Cheryl Mills or Miller???] was with BlackRock at that time, Bill Clinton received free office space and major donations from the Blackstone Group during his first presidential campaign, and the major donor to President Obama was BlackRock, which he rewarded with that Pentagon/DoD move to privatize their pensions awhile back, which benefitted BlackRock. Politicians are simply those minions of the super-rich above us.

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