Ta-Nehisi Coates, the 42-year-old writer and journalist whose books and essays rank among this decade’s most required reading, will appear Jan. 11 at Miami Dade College to discuss his latest book, “We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy.” The book is his first since “Between the World and Me,” which won the 2015 National Book Award for nonfiction.
Often, and correctly, compared to James Baldwin, Coates has made headline after headline for his brilliant and challenging writing on race, history and politics for the Atlantic magazine. Sometimes, he makes news with the titles of his pieces alone: “The Case for Reparations,” “My President Was Black” and “The First White President” are the most indelible. This last essay, about Donald Trump, appeared on the cover of the Atlantic’s October issue and serves as the epilogue to “We Were Eight Years in Power,” which joins eight articles Coates wrote during the Obama administration with new mini essays about the writing of those works.
Reviewing the book for the New York Times in November, poet Kevin Young writes, “ ‘Eight Years’ could have settled for being the obligatory miscellany that too often follows a writer’s masterpiece; instead, the book provides a master class on the essay form. Structured as a call and response between eight of his most significant articles and briefer, more personal essays arranged by year, Coates gives us something between a mixtape and a Künstlerroman, demonstrating how he came to dominate the nonfiction genre.”
Since its publication in October, the book has given fits to Coates’ critics on the political right (for obvious reasons) as well as on the left (George Packer of the New Yorker, Harvard professor Cornell West). Coates seems prepared for all of it.
“When ‘First White President’ came out, I knew people would have all sorts of responses,” he recently told the San Francisco Chronicle. “They could be pissed about it, they can be angry about it, a thousand people can reply to it, but they’re gonna read it. And they’re gonna read the next one, too. And the reason why is because of the facts. If I was just lying all the way through, eventually people would figure it out — this is an act. But the facts, even when people dispute them, disagree with them. That’s what brings them back time and time again.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates will appear 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11, at Miami Dade College’s Chapman Conference Center, 300 NE Second Ave., Building 3, in Miami. Tickets cost $30 and include a copy of “We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy.” Call 305-442-4408 or go to BooksAndBooks.com.