'Between the World and Me' named 2016-2017 KU Common Book

LAWRENCE — A quest for belonging. A struggle to overcome oppression. An awakening to identity. A call to greatness. In a brief 152 pages, readers explore stories of family, education and the American dream in "Between the World and Me," which has been chosen as the 2016-2017 KU Common Book.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ profound letter to his adolescent son portrays an honest and courageous response to the realities of race, legacy and inequality in America. Drawing from personal lived experience, Coates shares his early college days, the struggle to connect academic learning to the broader world and a quest for safety in a time of uncertainty. A modern coming-of-age story, "Between the World and Me" offers insight on community expectations and global learning as a young man discovers the injustice surrounding him.

"Between the World and Me" earned the 2015 National Book Award for nonfiction (National Book Foundation, 2015). The New York Times celebrated "Between the World and Me" as one of the 10 best books of 2015.

"The selection of 'Between the World and Me' as the KU Common Book is a timely and appropriate one in the context of the ongoing conversation about diversity and equality across the nation and on our campuses,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “The Common Book program has always enabled our community to address challenging topics, and this year's selection is no exception.”

"Between the World and Me" explores social justice, inequality and oppression in American society. Coates’ powerful words are particularly timely for college students as campuses across the nation struggle to redefine equity and access within their institutions. The book will challenge the KU community and provide meaningful opportunities to explore the effect of these issues at the university.

"Coates' book is a powerful reflection of the times because it offers a critical black perspective that is also deeply intimate," said Clarence Lang, associate professor and chair, Department of African and African-American Studies. "He is clearly inspired by 'The Souls of Black Folks' by W.E.B. Du Bois and James Baldwin's "The Fire Next Time," yet the book rings with an immediacy that I hope will attract KU students, especially millennials."

Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and the author of "The Beautiful Struggle." He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, most notably a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, the George Polk Award for Commentary, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center Prize for Writing for Social Justice, and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work. Coates studied at Howard University and Middlebury College. He later served as a visiting professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and City University of New York.

The KU Common Book program creates a shared academic experience for first-year students and fosters connections among students, faculty and staff. New students receive the KU Common Book during Orientation and participate in a series of courses, discussions and events throughout the academic year. Committees representing a broad range of students, faculty and staff within the university review nominations, read finalist texts and select the KU Common Book.

"Between the World and Me" is KU’s fifth Common Book. Previous Common Books:

  • "Notes from No Man’s Land" by Eula Biss (2012-2013)
  • "The Worst Hard Time" by Timothy Egan (2013-2014)
  • "The Center of Everything" by Laura Moriarty (2014-2015)
  • "A Farewell to Arms" by Ernest Hemingway (2015-2016)

Students, faculty and staff may submit nominations for the 2017-2018 KU Common Book at firstyear.ku.edu/nominate.

Tue, 03/08/2016


Joe Monaco

Media Contacts

Howard Graham

Office of First-Year Experience