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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Between the World and Me is a film adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates' 2015 memoir, in which he prepares his 15-year-old son for the adult realities of systematic racism and oppression. The book is performed as written by recognizable Black American actors and activists, such as Oprah Winfrey, Mahershala Ali, Phylicia Rashad, Angela Davis, Angela Bassett, and Jharrel Jerome. Excerpts from the book are interspersed with archival photographs and footage, similar to how a documentary presents footage. There is a specific focus on police brutality and the murder and abuse of Black Americans by the police, and violent incidents are described and revisited at length. Profanity and racist language are used, and drug and alcohol use are described. Though the film is no substitute for reading the book, Between the World and Me is a powerful introduction to systematic racism as experienced by Black people in America.
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What's the story?
BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME is a film adaptation of the 2015 bestselling memoir by Ta-Nehisi Coates. In an open letter to his 15-year-old son, Coates details the adult realities of systematic racism, oppression, and police brutality by recalling how he has witnessed and experienced them throughout his life. He talks about his childhood, his years as a student at Howard College, and moving to Brooklyn as a young father. Coates' memoir is dramatized by a lineup of well-known Black actors, and augmented with archival photos and video, documentary-style.
Is it any good?
Ta-Nehisi Coates' writing is brutal and poetic. Between the World and Me is his best known work, and it's likely one of the most important books of the past 10 years. When released in 2015, the memoir illuminated systematic oppression as experienced first-hand at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement was coming to national prominence and many Americans were waking up to the realities of police brutality in this country. Coates' book viscerally puts the reader into the experience of a Black American. But his words lose some of their power when handed over to actors who can't help but try to embellish them with dramatic tips and tricks that distract from the actual story. The weight of Coates' experience is still palpable, but it's notable that many of the most powerful parts of the film are unscripted, such as Chadwick Boseman's speech to graduates at Howard College, or Coates' interview with Breonna Taylor's mother after her daughter's murder by the police.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about who Between the World and Me is for. Why does Coates address his words to his son? Why is now the time to teach his son these things? How does the framing of Coates' story help you understand the content? How do the actors' performances affect Coates' story?
What are some examples of racism in Between the World and Me? How are these experienced by the characters in the story? How did it make you feel? Is their experience similar or different to your own? What can you learn from the experiences described in the film?
What are some ways the Black community has reacted to systematic oppression? How does it affect the community on a daily basis? What are some examples of trauma or loss caused by systematic oppression? What are some of the ways the Black community has come together to fight these injustices?
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