We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
drew beja
Powerful.....a world I did not know, did not understand, did not appreciate its impact upon the African-American populace. This is a MUST read.
Profound. Glad I read it, only wish I could have read it as a young man - would have given me more time to try to make a positive impact against this stain on the American story
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jay buys
This collection of essays shows the best reasons for how this country ended up with Donald Trump. It is a revelation for those of us who are older and really did think we were at least moving forward to a post racial country.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
In 9 essays counting the masterpiece epilogue, many published in The Atlantic, Coates harkens the style of HL Mencken and James Baldwin as he tackles the question that is more important than ever in the Trump Era: Is whiteness as a religion a small side story of American history, or is whiteness, as a false religion of supremacy and white idolatry, the very foundation of privilege that informed a majority-white electorate to elect a race-baiting misogynistic, “orcish reality television star who insists on taking his intelligence briefings in picture form” into the White House?
Coates makes a convincing case for the latter. Referring to This Mighty Scourge by James McPherson, American Slavery, American Freedom by Edmund Morgan, and other historical accounts, Coates gives us an unflinching look at the toxic symbiotic relationship between white supremacy identity and black stigma as a dynamic that never died but lives on and flourishes. This sad truth is evidenced in the election of President 45.
Coates further makes the point, also convincing, that whiteness has elevated a dangerous human being into the White House. Therefore, "whiteness," America's long-held cult of white idolatry, and the racist sociopath "whiteness" elected, present us with an existential danger and a national security crisis that must be looked at honestly and clearly.

Coates refutes the notion that disenfranchised lower-class whites voted for President 45. A majority of whites from all economic sectors and zip codes voted for him. Liberals like Nicholas Kristof and Bernie Sanders try to deny this fact and sugarcoat the motives behind whites voting for Trump. Coates will have none of their false explanations and denials, and I find myself agreeing with Coates who has written a magisterial summation of how 8 years of Obama produced the grotesque backlash and morally depraved political landscape that forces all of us to confront the evils of whiteness and the ill effects of liberal journalists who deny the full force of that virulent racist disease by using all forms of obfuscation. Highly recommended.
I Am Not Your Negro :: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America :: and Finding Myself in the Story of Race - Waking Up White :: Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 1 :: The Four Agreements i-Clips Magnetic Page Markers (Set of 4 Magnetic Bookmarks)
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
daniel mcgregor
Coates has a couple of larger and a couple of other flaws, not so much in individual ideas but in the big picture.

One is his fatalism. I'm far from alone to note that. And no, atheism, quasi-atheism or narrow-interest atheism doesn't logically require such fatalism. Look at Chris Hitchens, for example.

That said, I think Coates undercuts some of his own fatalism in spots. And, I think he recognizes that he does, but also recognized that to acknowledge that would destroy his narrative arc.

The second is his essentialism. Race (in a sociological sense) is a sine qua non, Coates insists, for understanding America in general, and black-white issues in particular.

Several issues spin off from that.

One is reparations. There's one other group of people that would be at least as deserving, but I don't think I've ever in my life heard Coates talk about reparations for American Indians.

Another is race - class issues. Coates does mention the likes of an Adolph Reed once or twice, but will never acknowledge that sometimes, some black economic issues, if not entirely class issues, are class issues first and foremost.

Of course, this cuts both ways. Sometimes Reed and his allies don't like to admit that some black economic issues began as racial issues period. (Take Jim Crow. Jim Crow laws were promulgated in the South from the time post-Reconstruction Redeemer governments too over states, which was long before most the South was industrialized, and thus before it had modern industrialism classes.) That said, both the likes of Reed and the likes of Coates play this out, all too often, as a zero-sum game.

Another spinoff of this essentialism is Coates' comparison of Obama and Hillary Clinton. He claims no black woman could have run on Hillary's prior electoral issue. Well, first, that has nothing to do with her being black; it has everything to do with her being a former First Lady. Second, Coates simply ignores how Obama, when he moved from the Illinois House to Senate, had bills — especially tough on crime bills — teed up for him by Democratic leaders, especially black Democratic leaders, in that body. He ignores how Obama's original GOP opponent for the US Senate imploded, and how he then got lucky enough to have Alan Keyes as the replacement. Etc., etc.

Well, again, ignores isn't the word as much as deliberately overlooks.

Coates does have a lot of good thoughts on how we're not post-racial, but many of them are largely derivative. Go to the original sources he mentions.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
marsha roncati
”People get ready
For the train to Jordan
Picking up passengers
From coast to coast”

“Faith is the key
Open the doors and board them
There's room for all
Among those loved the most”
-- “People Get Ready” – Curtis Mayfield

In 1895, South Carolina congressman Thomas Miller appealed to the State’s constitutional convention with these words -

‘We were eight years in power. We had built schoolhouses, established charitable institutions, built and maintained the penitentiary system, provided for the education of the deaf and dumb, rebuilt the ferries. In short, we had reconstructed the State and place it upon the rode to prosperity.’”

The title of this book, this collection of Coates’ essays, comes from this quote.

On 4 November 2008, over one hundred years later, Barack Obama was declared the President-elect.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”
President-elect Barack Obama – 4 November 2008

As in his 2015 “Between the World and Me,” this is a book about race in America. Eight articles written during the eight years of America’s first black presidency, one for each year.

Along with an essay for each year, there are accompanying notes on his life, his thoughts, his frustrations on the then current events around the topic of race, and his thoughts on Barack Obama, the man, before he was President Obama, to his slow recognition that this man might actually become our president, and then through the years of his presidency. The relationship between Obama’s eight years as president followed by the election of Donald Trump.

And now, slightly more than eight years have passed since Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, the first black president of this country. I would have thought that we, as a country, had become more accepting, that those who had feared Obama would be able to look back at the good that had taken place.

”In short, Obama, his family, and his administration were a walking advertisement for the ease with which black could be fully integrated into the unthreatening mainstream of American culture, politics, and myth.
And that was the problem.”

In the past 7 months plus, as I write this, since Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President, I am astonished at how emotionally charged our atmosphere has become, how much has visibly changed, how much more open and visible hatred has become. How timely this book is.

“There ain't no room
For the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all mankind
Just to save his own”
-- “People Get Ready” – Curtis Mayfield

”I have often wondered how I missed the coming tragedy. It is not so much that I should have predicted that Americans would elect Donald Trump. It’s just that I shouldn’t have put it past us.”

A myriad of emotions flowed through me while reading this, sadness to anger, shame, fear, pride, hope. At times this lay heavy on my soul, but more often I found myself re-reading portions to further embrace and internalize his words. Faith, that intangible belief in something bigger and better than us, that’s what Coates words made me reflect upon.

”Have pity on those
Whose chances are thinner
'Cause there's no hiding place
From the kingdom's throne”

“So people get ready
For the train a-comin'
You don't need no baggage
You just get on board”
-- “People Get Ready” – Curtis Mayfield


Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Publishing Group – Random House
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Listened to a recent interview of Coates at the AME Church in Washington, DC, discussing his book and thought I would take a look at it. Having read the book, I'm not sure what all the overblown accolades and praise are for. In this series of essays, Coates doesn't seem all that eloquent. In fact, his essays sound more like something I would have written back in my high school days. In fact, the guy has no academic credentials or work to speak of, yet everyone's fawning over him like the emperor with no clothes.

But ain't that America? Once a certain class of people decide you're the bomb, you're on your way, regardless of the actual talent you muster or the utility of what you write or perform. Meh, I've read better.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
carol keating
Greetings the storeians,
This is an interesting and at points compelling work. It is also essentially one-sided.
Towards the end of the book Coates tells an unfortunate story of a friend of President Obama who goes with his wife to buy a car...upon his wife's insistence....they buy the car from a black salesman. The story is intended to suggest that President Obama is unlike most other black Americans in that he (like his friend - the husband in the story) would buy a car from a white salesman. This is sad, and I will say I hope Coates is wrong. If you refuse to buy a car from a member of a different race (of course you are within your right to do so) - but you are a racist.
Coates goes on at length about how racist whites are and how racist Trump is...it gets tiresome. I was glad the book finally came to an end.
The book is informative and the piece on reparations is quite compelling. The comments on President Obama are enlightening at many points.
Sadly despite dropping out of college and managing to become a very successful writer....Coates story is a tragedy. (Yes, a tragedy!) And the poor guy is an atheist too. So it is just sad all the way around. If you are a conservative or a Trump supporter (I am both) you should read this book. Liberals need not bother.
He is an effective writer even if his style is rather loose and informal.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
niels korteling
Ta-Nehisi Coates is pissed. He has a thing or two to say about the historical continuity of racism in the USA, and in this series of eight outstanding essays, he says it well. I read it free and early thanks to Net Galley and Random House, and I apologize for reviewing it so late; the length wasn’t a problem, but the heat was hard to take. That said, this is the best nonfiction civil rights book I have seen published in at least 20 years.

Coates started his writing career as a journalist, and became the civil rights columnist for The Atlantic. For those Caucasians that advise Black folk to just get over this nation’s ugly history because slavery has been gone for 150 years, he has a response. Pull up your socks and be ready. To Bill Cosby and Patrick Moynihan and anybody else that wants to blame the high poverty level on the demise of the Black family, look out. And for anyone that seriously believes that the election of Barack Obama to the presidency is proof that America’s institutional racism is dead and gone, step back a minute.

When Coates sets out to make a point, he comes armed for conflict. Not only is he searing eloquent, his research is hard to dispute. For white folk that hold themselves blameless for what their ancestors have done, he wonders why we feel so free to claim our veterans every May and November and yet pretend that our white bedsheeted ancestors have nothing to do with us.

He has a point.

For those of us that are persuaded that the election of Donald Trump to the White House is more about economics and the unemployment of poor white people or the abrasive nature of Ms. Clinton than about white supremacy, Coates has some cogent arguments that run in the other direction. It’s enough to make you stop and think, and that’s why I am tardy with my review. I read in small bites, and then I had to reconsider some of my own conclusions. And although it stings, great writing does this. If we are paying attention, we have to realign some of our own thinking in order to meet the reality this book presents.

Coates is bemused by Caucasian readers that love his work. I understand his bewilderment; nobody likes to hear bad news about the characters of their ancestors, let alone about themselves. But if a thing needs doing, it needs to be done right, and in that respect, Coates is undeniable.

Highly recommended to everyone genuinely interested in civil rights in the USA.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rachel main
Ta-Nehisi Coates' We Were Eight Years In Power~~

“When I told (President) Obama that Trump's candidacy was an explicit reaction to the fact of a black president, he said he could see that, but then enumerated other explanations. When assessing Trump's chances, he was direct. He couldn't win.”

We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy tells a sad and fascinating tale of America in the 21st century. While author Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me) affirms that it was a victory for America to finally elect a black president, one who could only be elected because he chose to support and promote “color-blind” politics and believed in the American people to work together for our good, it was also a tragedy on the scale of the post-Civil War years.

Coates spent much time visiting battlefields of that war. He rarely saw another black person and it disappointed him. Blacks know the war was not really a victory for them because the whites in power found other, legalized ways to keep blacks impoverished, subservient, and weak in spirit and power. They still are and blaming it on the black person's character and laziness.

As Coates reminds us, American prosperity was built on the backs of millions of American slaves. Plantation owners made a killing off of their many generations of slaves who sank further in debt to their “masters” while generation of whites inherited wealth.

This book includes Coates' eight essays for The Atlantic that span the two terms of President Obama. Before each essay he discusses why he wrote them and his feelings about them in hindsight.

His favorite essay was a complex one called “A Case For Reparations” and it was indeed engaging. He also wrote about how Michelle Obama makes her husband more American in a sense. Having grown up in Hawaii Obama didn't experience racism ,like blacks did and do in the rest of America.

Coates interviews the president towards the end of his presidency, although they had talked and argued as part of meetings with other journalists. Coates also attended the last concert hosted by the Obamas.

I think there's much to reflect on in this book. It's hard-hitting and passionate as well as insightful.

My hope is that Americans will read the book with a willingness to confront the racist problem America has always had and begin a conversation about what democracy really means and what their vision of America has become. Coates notes that many things have changed about America, such as the loss of non-technical jobs, but its protection of white supremacy has not.

Perhaps he's too pessimistic about America's future. I hope! He predicts even more cunning white supremacists will replace Trump. I think that would only be a threat if we were the only nation in the world and lacked the example of more democratically-minded, progressive, and prosperous nations.

Highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I had my issues with Between the World and Me but I thought to myself within the first 50 pages that I’d have better things to say about We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy. I really like and respect Ta-Nehisi Coates as a writer and as the black intellectual he hesitates call himself. His introductions to each essay in which he gives a bit of personal background and even evaluates the ways he felt he could’ve done better in each piece were one of my favorite parts about this book.

I appreciated that Coates didn’t skimp on historical detail. There were quotes, statistics, and interviews to support his writings on the black experience, black identity, black issues, and his viewpoints on President Obama. The author is very liberal in his views and his use of the “n-word” in some parts of the book. While some of the essays were written a few years ago, they all felt painfully relevant to the America we find ourselves in today. To arrange eight essays for the eight years Obama was in office and produce a book with a title based on an ominous quote from 1895 was, in my eyes, a pretty brilliant approach.

Overall, “We Were Eight Years in Power” is a collection attempting to paint a picture of the past eight years and the effects of many years ago that color the issues that continue to plague African Americans. In that purpose, I thought it was a fine piece of work by a writer whose ability to tie together his work as a journalist and offer a perspective that is well-researched, yet still personal and compassionate, is to be admired.

*This review is based on a free, pre-release electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are my own.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
manasa kanthamneni
This book clearly makes Ta-Nehisi Coates a peer of two of his most revered writers: James Baldwin and Toni Morrison. It's also noteworthy that he quoted the black historian, Nell Painter, in the foreword of THE ORIGIN OF OTHERS by Toni Morrison as well as in WE WERE EIGHT YEARS IN POWER—AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY. Here is statement that Coates felt worthy of reinforcing: Race is and idea, it is not a fact. He explores this idea mightily in every single sentence of this book.

Here are some key excerpts:

"Out here, in the concrete and real, sentences should be supernatural, words strung together until they compelled any listener to repeat them at odd hours, long after the bass line had died."

"I wanted to produce writing that was not just correct on its merits, but through its form and flow, emotionally engaged the receiver, writing that was felt as much as it was understood."

"A writer tries to convey all the shifting moods, emotions, and tides within, but like the music, the full complexity of this thinking lives beyond the narrative grasp."

"My reasons for writing had to be my own, divorced from expectation. There would be no reward."

"For Americans, the hardest part of paying reparations would not be the outlay of money. It would be acknowledging that their most cherished myth was not real."

"The essence of American racism is disrespect."

"An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane."

"If there is a power that has ever surrendered itself purely out of some altruistic sense of justice, I have yet to come across it."

WE WERE EIGHT YEARS IN POWER is a remarkably thought-provoking book. It is impeccably researched and beautifully written.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
h jane
We Were Eight Years in Power is a thoughtful and important examination of racial history, race relations, politics and ethics. The essays cover such topics as The Civil War and Reconstruction, Malcolm X and the black power movement, the discussion or reparations, systemic racism and the import of Obama and Trump as reflections of our society. Though it is often painful to face this history and these issues, Ta-Nehisi Coates treats them in an urgent, yet not vehement manner that seeks to explain and educate the reader. As I'm sure is the case with many readers, I was equally appalled by the history of discrimination as by the fact that much of society has been blind to it for so long (whether through willful ignorance or else just by living in our own bubbles.) I would recommend We Were Eight Years in Power for those wishing to open their eyes to the more shameful aspects of the promise of the American dream and equality for all. I would also recommend it for those who might not wish their eyes open but need to be educated.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Ta-Nehisi Coates does NOT mince words. We have gone far, but no, we have NOT gone far........ What was attacked (Black government, Black Education, racial inequity, Education, Business) back in the Reconstruction Days is STILL being attacked today -- do we now have laws, rights, advancement, in name only???? Is this just a veneer that hides the Crux of the problem that no one sees or wants to see? Take two giant steps forward and be shove Four giant steps backward?

This is a must read, and a must RE-Read. It not only discusses what WE can DO, but it discusses what we should LOOK for -- behind the scenes, or in plain view -- in order to know, understand and combat the way inequities are STILL being promulgated.

In a way, this book reminds me of the book "On The Courthouse Lawn".
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ram ray
The dramatic pendulum swing from a President Obama to a President Trump has left analysts, both right and left, scrambling to understand what happened. Coates, who has become the premier commentator from Black America, responds by collecting eight articles he published in The Atlantic, one per year, during the Obama administration. To each he adds an extended preface which reflects on the strengths and weaknesses of each piece, and which looks forward to implications the ideas in each essay might have.

The first half includes portraits of Bill Cosby, Michelle Obama, and Malcolm X. The centerpiece of the second half is his widely acclaimed article “The Case for Reparations” not just for slavery but for Jim Crow, redlining, and more. Other substantial essays include one on mass incarceration in the US and a portrait of President Obama.

The two halves reflect changes in Coates. Most obviously, those in the latter part are much longer, a result of his own rise as a writer and as a minor celebrity.

More significant is the shift in tone. The early essays are laments for the Black community, for himself, and for America. The book is well subtitled “An American Tragedy.” An underlying sadness pervades each essay.

The tone of the later essays increases in intensity to persistent hopelessness. Will reparations happen? Probably not. But even if they did, nothing much would change.

Will mass incarceration end? There are actually a few bipartisan hints this might be coming, but it will be immensely difficult to carry out. Even if it does end, white America will figure out another way to replace it just as Jim Crow replaced slavery, redlining replaced Jim Crow, and mass incarceration replaced redlining. At the very least, it will take several more generations for America to come to terms with its sins of the past and see Black people as full citizens of the nation.

This book requires us to look inward at ourselves as individuals and as a community. Where does such dogged oppression come from? Why is it necessary for one race to view others as inferior or dangerous or evil? In his preface to the essay on incarceration, Coates quotes one of his literary heroes, James Baldwin, who offers a thought-provoking answer:

"White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they achieve this—which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never—the Negro problem will not exist, for it will no longer be needed."
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
megan ilertsen
Faithful followers of Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic may think there is no reason to read We Were Eight Years in Power because it publishes eight of his articles from each year of the Obama presidency, but they would be wrong. I read those articles when they were written, but he introduces each one by noting how his ideas have changed and what he thinks he got right or wrong in the original. Reading in retrospective casts them in a different context and, let’s be honest, Coates essays are packed with historical insight and the kind of original thinking that demands close and repeated reading.

The introductions tell us what was happening in America and in Coates’ development as a writer when the articles were written. This frames the essays anew with the retrospective knowledge that Obama’s presidency so incited racism in white America chose the most openly racist, most obviously corrupt, and most belligerently ignorant white man they could find to replace him.

The essays Coates chose are also among his most important, the evisceration of revisionist Civil War history, the call for reparations, they exposure of white fear of black success, and the devastation of the carceral state. They are worth reading and rereading to remind ourselves that we have to reckon with white supremacy if we ever hope to be free and democratic country.

Coates also deftly handles the ridiculous claims that economic insecurity and elitist condescension led to Trump’s success. White people did not vote for Trump because their feelings were hurt by Saturday Night Live. They voted for Trump to elevate and sustain white supremacy.

I have admired Ta-Nehisi Coates for a long time and read his blog, bookmarking some of his articles on the Civil War for when someone talks about the Civil War being about tariffs or states’ rights or anything but white supremacy. It can be hard to read his thoughts because there is no false comfort that that arc of history is bending toward justice any time soon. This is not a hopeful book, but that is what makes it important. Truth is not always hopeful and more than anything else, Americans need to face the truth about white supremacy and how it poisons our country.

I received a copy of Were Eight Years in Power from the publisher from NetGalley.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
laurel ryshpan
We We’re Eight Years In Power provides a pattern of historical events that have resulted in disadvantaging generations of black Americans from a range of things such as securing homes in well established communities, acquiring adequate educational experiences and systematically limiting or advancement opportunities. It will explain how even as a president racist limitations have been established to keep you from gaining too much freedom. If ever you wondered how a black man could become president or better yet how Trump could actually become president this novel explains it best. This novel has been written as Coates way of showing defiance without expecting much applause, accreditation or acknowledgement but as an opportunity to share the truth behind the politics.

We We’re Eight Years In Power includes a compilation of essays from Coates time writing for the Atlantic as well as personal reflections of his life during the course of these times. Ta’Nehisi Coates, who had considered himself a failure at one point due to being unemployed and his inability to provide a steady income for his family gives all credit to Obama for waking the “slumbering black writers” with his election. Between the essays you will find bits and pieces of his journey “out of the unemployment office and into the Oval Office.” “Barack Obama is directly responsible for the rise of a crop of black writers and journalists who achieved prominence during his two terms,” Coates explains. “These writers were talented — but talent is nothing without a field on which to display its gifts. Obama’s presence opened a new field.
As one of the few people able to say he sat with the President Obama during his time in office and was able to have an open dialogue on various subjects pertaining to politics, his insight is highly valuable and should be recognized as such. Whether or not you are a huge fan of politics this book will leave you with much more insight on the foundation of our nations politics and help you to become more aware of the damage institutional racism has caused. If I have learned anything from this novel it is that America refuses to acknowledge its mistakes that cost black America not only countless lives but countless opportunities. As African Americans, our history is up to us to pass on and whether or not they choose to acknowledge or accept what they have done we are a part of the foundation upon which this country was built.
This book should be on the book shelves of any American, the vocabulary is a bit daunting but having completed this book and grasping its concepts will leave you feeling nothing less than accomplished. I purchased the hardback version of this book for a little less than $28 and while I may forget the exact price I paid I won’t forget the lessons I took away. If you are “woke” you will enjoy this book, if somehow you have been sleep, if this book doesn’t wake you I don’t know what will.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
aman shurbaji
Many thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy. I was under no obligation to review this book and my opinion is freely given.

We Were Eight Years in Power is comprised of eight essays, which were originally published by the author's employer, The Atlantic. The repetitive nature of some of the essays is not a negative, as it, in fact, helps to underscore the point that the author is trying to make. Mr. Coates speaks to the larger issue of how, after eight years of having the first black president in the United States, the nation could still be stuck in a racial divide. The questions raised by the many in this country about the legitimacy of Barack Obama's presidency has given rise to the first white president.

As we swing from one extreme to the other, author Ta-Nehisi Coates has elegantly written his views about the eight years in power. I appreciate the fact that the author does not just speak to his roots and his heritage, but has thoughts and ideas that all people can identify with and learn from. His discourse is very intellectual, but with a delivery that speaks to all of his readers.

Ta-Nehisi Coates gets down to the heart of the matter regarding Obama's presidency. "The irony of Barack Obama is this: He has become the most successful black politician in American history by avoiding the radioactive issues of yesteryear, by being "clean" ... and yet his indelible blackness irradiates everything he touches" (p. 122). He also discusses "Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy towards some and broader skepticism towards others" (pp. 123-124). Finally, on the issue of "whiteness" that Trump's presidency has brought: "Trump's legacy will be exposing the patina of decency for what it is and revealing just how much a demagogue can get away with" (p. 365).

With a fearful eye towards the future, author Ta-Nehisi Coates echoes sentiments that many in this country have uttered in their own homes. We Were Eight Years in Power is a book that I would recommend to other readers wholeheartedly.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jason heath
This is one of the best books that I have read. It is a collection of essays, but I actually like how it is being presented. I often get into the substance so much that by the time I am done, I forget how it all started. However, in this case, he often goes back to his main points, which I find very helpful.

As far as the substance, I think that every high school student should read this book. Sure, he may use little bit of hyperbole when he talks about the different races and their tendencies, but I have no problem with that. I did not go through to check the validity of quotes from 200 years ago, but the main reason that I like this book is that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to argue with some of the main points, I would say facts, that many Caucasian male Americans find uncomfortable - this country was founded on the principles of White Supremacy, resulting in a male establishment that profited enormously from this structure. And following the end of slavery, other types of discrimination/laws were put in place to keep the differences in place. Therefore, if you really think about it, referring to America as "the land of the free and the home of the brave" is kind of sickening, honestly. But strangely, somehow, although dark, this book has surprisingly made me more hopeful - yes, America's myth of freedom is disturbing, but that does not mean that we cannot change it!
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
barbara garrey
Ta-Neshi Coates got into a bit of an intellectual spat with Cornell West recently about the title and subject of this book. I wanted to see if Cornell West was on the right track with this one, and unfortunately, many of his criticisms are valid. Coates assertions like "Donald Trump is the First White President" fundamentally ignore the racist history that America was founded upon, the genocide of one people (Native Americans) and the enslavement of another (Africans). Coates wants to offer up a pandering apology for Obama's international war crimes, which Ralph Nader has said should be considered WORSE than George W. Bush, while also neglecting a deep critique of white supremacy embedded in culture. His style is popular precisely because his genteel, soft rebuff of neoliberalism does not demand much from white folks. The works of Malcom X, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Mr. West, and Franz Fanon offer readers the tools of liberation; Coates has yet to find his own, much less share them with us.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
john hornbeck
Coates is a deeply persuasive author and these essays will challenge folks 'on all sides.' Are you skeptical about the role that racism played in the 2016 election? Read the book. Do you have strong but unreasoned opinions about the culpability of white people for the current American situation? Read the book. This book is at once radical and moderate. Coates is one of my favorite active intellectuals, and I hope to see more of him in the coming decades. We need minds like Coates to throw water on the Twitter fires that we are setting for ourselves in recent history. Coates is a voice of passion _with academic architecture_ to support his claims. The final essay, with its stunning critique of the relationship between Democrats and the white working class, was my favorite essay. —Ryan
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amin zayed
This was a difficult book to review. It was also difficult to read and to know that what I was reading was truth. If you don’t know it as truth, you need to go way back and look at how we became America and who the people were that made up the rules that some people, based on their sex or skin color, were considered less than.

I’ve studied slavery and the Civil War for a long time. I worked with the Middle Passage Museum and met John Lewis, Coretta Scott King, and many other leaders of the rights movement and survivors of the what is still a racist South and North. Some people are just more blatant about it.

I along with a lot of other people expected Obama to stand up for race inequalities. But as it turned out he wasn’t going to rock the boat either way.

This journalist does. Here you get the unvarnished truth about all sides. In my humble opinion this should be a must read for all high school students. Especially places like Mississippi which in some towns have only in recent years, or make that year, have been forced to stop segregating blacks to the other side of the track schools.

There is no such thing as white supremacy. There are just insecure people who need to have someone to be better than so they aren’t the ones on the bottom.

Thank you for this book Netgalley and Random House! Due to release October 3, 2017
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
arianne carey
This book ought to be mandatory reading for every white person in this country! It is far past the time for whites to have some knowledge of what it is like to be a person of color in the USA. I consider myself enlightened and I was taken aback by many of the Incidents which Black citizens encounter everyday in this "free" society. It is appalling that parents must warn their children what to do when confronted by police! It has to be terrible to know that you cannot even go shopping with being watched as if you are a criminal. The fury and rage that exists in our communities of color in this land of freedom is quite understandable to me. It must be horrible to be treated like an outsider in the country you helped to build and which would not even exist without you. This book is a MUST READ for everyone who cares about this countries success!!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ rise to regular contributor at The Atlantic coincided with Barack Obama’s eight years as President. Coincidentally, his journalistic chops gave him access and that turned into an obvious friendship to the extent that Coates got invited to the good parties and rode on Air Force One. “We Were Eight Years in Power” collects Coates’ major essays from this era. He introduces each with a short effort to transform the essay from current events journalism to historical record.
Coates reminds us that racism is the hot burning coal at the core of the American experience. Those who would make America great again perpetrate a myth about a greatness that has yet to be attained. Read more at bookmanreader.blogspot.com
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mccartney green
This book is a collection of essays, each from one year of the Obama presidency. While the essays have been previously published, they are included with new introductions that provide some background for the author's thoughts and life at the time. The new material is excellent on it's own but it also serves to tie the essays together and provide a continuity to the book. The essays themselves are essential reading and provide great depth to many aspects of the Black experience in America.

With a focus that covers much of American history, in addition to contemporary times, the essays and reflections in this collection are eye-opening gave me much to think about. It is an essential read that is much more than the sum of its parts.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
A must-read. Coates revisits eight essays written during the Obama presidency and previously published in The Atlantic. Before each essay, Coates provides an introduction, giving personal, historical, and cultural context to the essays. The essays and introduction are an excellent examination of the socioeconomic policies and cultural structures designed not only to keep white people in power, but to keep black people out of power. Of course, each introduction and essay are informed by the reality of our current political climate & the Trump presidency. His final essay is a scathing condemnation of the everyday-ness of white supremacy and a complete put-down of the notion that race and racism are "no longer an issue."

Coates is an excellent writer. This wasn't as effortless or composed as Between the World and Me, but it was remarkably well put together considering these essays were originally eight stand-alone pieces. Although you can find the essays online, this book is worth it alone for the introductions. For anyone seeking to understand the current sociopolitical situation in the United States, this book is mandatory reading.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
lauren lynch
This book is not “for me.” Ta-Nehisi Coates does not write for white people–his audience is for people of color, specifically, black people. And that is okay. That does not make his essays any less necessary for me to read. How else can I become educated on important topics that people of color are speaking on or are upset about, if I don’t pay attention?

When a person on social media tells me to go “get educated,” this is the kind of book they are referring to–Ta-Nehisi Coates, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and other such authors have powerful lessons for us to absorb.

There’s a point in the book where Coates wonders why white people like his writing so much. To say I “like” it might be going too far–but it certainly makes me feel things I’ve never felt before. He makes me ask questions of myself that I would never have felt otherwise. I feel a certain amount of shame, for sure–but I read Coates to find out what I need to do to recover what I have missed and just plain messed up. Coates’ writing is a crucial education to those of us white people who do strive to be better than we were yesterday, and I’m grateful for it.

However, I did not care as much for We Were Eight Years in Power near as I did for Between the World and Me. This one is way more political, obviously, and so it just didn’t interest me. There are still many important thoughts to be gleaned from reading it, but there were also some sections I just skimmed over–for example, the essay on incarceration was filled to the brim with numbers…and I’ve never been great at reading for comprehension when surrounded by statistics.

I still think this is a valuable resource to understand the last 10 years in American political history, especially as it affects people of color. Ta-Nehisi Coates does a great job of laying everything out, no holds barred–I have learned so much from reading his two books.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
We Were Eight Years in Power is provocative, thoughtful, and powerful, containing several essays Coates produced for the Atlantic during the Obama years, and accompanied by recent retrospectives in which the author adds autobiographical content and reflections on the overall staying power of his writings. This book helped me and challenged me to think more carefully about race, while at the same time calling into question many of my assumptions about prosperity and power. As someone who is increasingly trying to understand different perspectives in order to advocate effectively for justice for all people, I have found Coates to be a lucid, disturbing, and unignorable voice. His arguments have moral force, and while I do not agree with him on every point, I nevertheless find his arguments worthy of engagement and debate. Read this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jon dula
The piece with which Ta-Nehisi Coates opens his new collection of essays, WE WERE EIGHT YEARS IN POWER, offers a stunning reflection on how much changed in eight years and how much has stayed exactly the same. Before Barack Obama was elected president, Coates reminds us, he (and, he implies, many less famous black journalists like him) was on the verge of going nowhere. A college dropout with a supportive partner and a young son, Coates had moved to New York to become a writer, but at the tail end of the George W. Bush administration, it didn’t really seem like anyone --- at least anyone in the predominantly white mainstream --- really cared what he had to say.

All that changed, Coates argues, with the election of Obama. All of a sudden, the mainstream media wanted to hear from young black journalists and intellectuals, people who had been studying and thinking about issues of race and privilege and power much longer and more deeply than had most of the pundits on TV and in the print media. All of a sudden, knowledge and perspective like Coates’ seemed not only relevant, but essential during this unprecedented time.

Now, eight years later, Coates has written a bestselling memoir (BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME), won numerous grants and fellowships, and is one of the most influential writers for The Atlantic, as well as perhaps the closest thing we have anymore to a so-called public intellectual. The change in his fortune seems, in retrospect, as meteoric and perhaps as unlikely as the ascendancy of Obama himself. But, as Coates’ opening piece (not to mention the book’s subtitle, “An American Tragedy”) points out, perhaps the more things change, the more they stay the same. The book’s title comes from an 1895 speech by South Carolina Congressman Thomas Miller, bemoaning the rise of an oppressive “Redemption” that came too swiftly on the heels of a relatively egalitarian post-Civil War Reconstruction period. Coates does not shy away from comparing that period --- when whites aggressively tamped down so-called Good Negro Government with policies that have led to more than a century of systemic inequality and oppression --- with our own post-Obama era.

Coates’ book collects eight essays --- one for each year of the Obama presidency --- all of which were originally published in The Atlantic. Before each of these essays, he provides a newly written piece that provides personal or historical context, that evaluates how well each piece has held up over time, and/or that considers the essay anew in the light of hindsight. Given how popular Coates’ writing became during (and in the immediate aftermath of) Obama’s presidency, at least some of these essays --- including his now-famous argument for reparations, as well as essays on mass incarceration and the Civil War --- will be familiar to many readers. But reading them in a single volume, and with the added context of Coates’ retrospective analysis and current events, gives them added heft and relevance, even as some of them (such as the opening essay about Bill Cosby that now appears almost innocent in light of everything that has surfaced since) seem like artifacts of a different time.

Coates, rather notably, has been critical of Obama at times, faulting him for not going far enough on matters of race or for employing so-called respectability politics that, he argues, fail to recognize the complexity of many black people’s experience --- experiences that, he suggests in the essay “My President Was Black,” Obama doesn’t quite share. But despite their differences of opinion and approach, Coates’ tone, especially in the closing essay, the mini-intros to each essay, and most notably the epilogue “The First White President,” is clearly elegiac, a mourning for a time that now seems even more remarkable and that, he appears to suggest, we are unlikely to encounter again.

WE WERE EIGHT YEARS IN POWER is a vivid, essential retrospective of a time that already seems to be receding in the rearview mirror, and an urgent reminder of why we continue to need critical, energetic voices like Coates to remind us of who we are and where we have been.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
hillary noyes
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy - This is very powerful writing; by showing me the history of our Nation through his eyes, Ta-Nehisi Coates has helped me to understand racism clearly for the first time. From America’s earliest beginnings, white prosperity and white social equality were foundation of our democracy and our Civil War was inaugurated by men who believed property in humans was at the cornerstone of civilization. The quote by Jefferson Davis that ‘white men have an equality resulting from a presence of a lower caste’ helped to drive the point home for me.

It is fact that modern Homo sapiens evolved at least 300,000 years ago and with our knowledge today, we can safely conclude that the inequalities between so-called racial groups are products of social, historical, economic, educational and political circumstances. Even post-racialism and good feelings were taken up, not so much out of elevation in consciousness but out of desperation. Coates worked extremely hard to understand and believe in the vision of Barack Obama, who was the realization of generations, a black ambition as old as the country. He drew from the words of Booker T. Washington, James Baldwin, Bill Cosby, Martin Luther King and others to explain why such depth of understanding was necessary.

Barack Obama, as the first black president of the United States - a majority-white country, assumed the full weight of America's crimes against its own people. He has been followed by the first white president and there can now be no conflict between the naming of whiteness and the naming of the degradation brought about by any unrestrained capitalism, by the privileging of greed and the legal encouragement to hoarding and more elegant plunder.

Bob Magnant is the author of 'The Last Transition...', a fact-based novel about Iran. He writes about politics, globalization, the Internet and US policy
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Coates at his best. This collection of previously published essays with additional context comments for this book showcases his ability to integrate his own viewpoints, clearly defining the direction of his work, with a wide ranging overview of the issues and the people involved. This collection is largely about the presidency of Obama, but it's really about race and power, from the educational system to mass incarceration.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
This book made me angry, sad, happy, ashamed, reminiscent, worried, optimistic, and anguished at different junctures. At times, I wanted to quit reading this book in disgust, at other times I could not read this book quick enough to absorb the knowledge being disseminated. Regardless of you race, gender, political affiliation, belief structure, or history, you should be able to at least glean some tangible amount of knowledge or perspective from this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This book caught and kept me captivated from beginning to end. I first had the audiobook. Being read to brought each segment alive. But more so was the exquisite writing. The use of memoir, history, and narrative was captivating. Anyone wanting to understand how we got to this place in history should read this book. I believe it should be mandatory reading for every student in High School and College. I am a student of history but Coates made things I knew brand new! Each chapter made me want to do more research. Especially poignant was the explanation on the first White President. I have read it once and intend to keep it as a reference. A must read!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
In "We Were Eight Years in Power," Ta-Nehisi Coates offers an examination of the Obama presidency, the role of race in American politics and a distressing coda related to the ascendency of Donald Trump. Some readers will find statistical and historical evidence to back up theories they may have already considered. Others may be stunned to see these facts marshaled in this way. Readers of The Atlantic will recognize large portions of the book, as each chapter is essentially a fresh introduction along with an article that previously appeared in the magazine.

Personally, I find Coates' synthesis impossible to refute. White people in America continue to benefit from what he describes as the "bloody heirloom," getting preferential treatment at every stage and level of existence, from the first day of kindergarten to the day they apply for a mortgage and beyond. Reading "The Case for Reparations," I am struck by the logic of his arguments. America is centuries overdue for a truth and reconciliation discussion and policy agenda.

"We Were Eight Years in Power" is one of the most important books of 2017.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
yusuf alaseeri
I've listened to 20+ audiobooks and I'm a huge fan of podcasts, but the audiobook for Eight Years was the worst audio recording I've heard. I think Coates has a fascinating and important voice in American culture, but the reader of this audiobook makes his words sound trite and fake. Also, the editing is abysmal. I've never heard before, in any podcast or audiobook, any evidence of editing. In Eight Years, there are phrases put in the middle of sentences that are a noticeably different volume and tone.

Who knows how good the book is - I enjoyed Between the World and Me - but as a product this is a horrible audiobook.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
We Were Eight Years in Power
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Book Review


It is thought that the first documented African slaves arrived on these shores in the year 1612.

This book is so rich in historical benchmarks and telling(s) of times and people that sculptured who we are as a nation. There’s little space in this review to highlight all the points discussed. They are all so very relevant. So, I’ll speak to a few.

I was waiting a long time for this journal and the writing is better than I’d hoped. In each generation an African American author presents to the world a treatise that paints a vivid picture in eloquent terms that speaks to the heart. This compilation points the way to understanding the deeper aspects of our culture. The results of Mr. Coates’ research is a brilliant and honest body of work and art.

He began with our most recent history

We saw Barack Obama as the quintessential choice for POTUS 44. This was a prideful offering representing how we view not only African America but America’s values. Our gratification did not stem from just the color of his skin, rather the fact of his bona fide, the character with which he conducts his life.

The author captures this sentiment superbly.

To many of us in Chicago Barack Obama is the incarnation of what the old dreamers back in the day and just up from the south envisioned as what was possible. Barack is considered an expression of all that is good in our culture. Mr. Coates’ details of the times and social conditions that surrounded that election is brilliant journalism. His firsthand account of the primary and general, of Michelle’s roles during those history making moments should be a must read for aspiring journalists. It goes beyond simple social studies.

We’re the hidden American culture

The book explores candidly how Michelle Obama’s middle-class upbringing seemed to be a subject of discovery for many Americans. The debates about whether she was a proudful American or not grew into a national phenomenon. It raged on explaining how the anathema amongst the White populist justified the events leading to the formation of the Tea Party. This aspect of American cultured cannot be defined or explained enough. Coates clarified in painful detail this false narrative that helped propel theories as fact that the first African American President is not a true American, in some quarters he lacked human attributes. It’s a painful reminder.

This book peels a way so much of what White American has chosen not to address or understand about our post World War II parentage. Come up from the south they built communities where our doctors were black, the lawyer, real estate brokers, grocer and butcher were all people of color. It was considered disrespectful to patronize a white business when there were “our people” needing the work. African America enjoyed with pride insular communities. The author captures this recollection with care and great understanding.

“The South Side was almost a black world unto itself, replete with the economic and cultural complexity of the greater city. There were debutantes and cotillions as well as gangs and drug addicts, Mostly, there were men like Fraser Robinson, black people working a job, trying to get by. The diversity and the demographics allowed the Robinsons to protect their kids from the street life, and also from digest, personal racism.”

Reparation; to make amends, to bring whole what was taken.

Coates’ views on the “banditry” of African Americans debates brilliantly the reasons for his heartbreak on this subject. The robbing of African Americans of heritage and vows of reparations is explored in this book. He explains the machinations surrounding broken promises made of forty acres and a mule to the various failed social reforms I’ll address later in this review.

The only thing missing in this chapter is the harsh reality of the lack of economic value our country still holds for its African American communities. I’ve not to date viewed a plausible quant study on the cost to the Negro culture. It is indeed worth taking a knee for. According to the statistics in this book there’s continued harshness visited upon the African American, we’ve certainly earned the right to peacefully protest these egregious symptoms of imbalance.

It is hard to convey how needful it is for everyone to understand that we are not a “Photonegative of each other” – Ta-Nehisi Coates


Coates uses as example social economists like Patrick Moynihan who lent his brilliance to creating various iterations of social programs meant to alleviate the Negro plight. Most failed and instead of them becoming teachable times, they more than often created deeper chasms of social wrongs. These social experiments have left indelible societal scars that will last for generations.

The end of marginalization is a many generational and much wish for event. And yet here we are again…more “the other” than ever…. or so it sometime seems.

Where do we go from here? This story seems ageless but this writing will rank among the finest example of journalism.

The plot is yet to be discovered. Not until the current American culture comes to understand the nature of marginalization and its hideous influence on socio-economics and sovereign survival. Will this “plot” ever be understood.

The conflict lies in the need to dismiss and not read books like this that bring some understanding to the why of our selective ignorance about each other.

Critiques This work is a must read for everyone. No matter the country or culture there are lessons in this book that are needful to humanity. Ta-Nehisi Coates joins the esteem ranks of this generation’s finest author.

Thank you, Mr. Coates
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Ta-Nehisi Coates' best-selling “Between the World and Me” has has made Ta-Nehisi Coates a frequent interview subject and essayist on US racial issues.
In “We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy” Coates has selected one of his essays from the Atlantic from each of the last eight years, and introduces each with a current essay relative to it, some extremely self-critical. The subjects of the original essays range from Malcolm X, Bill Cosby and Michelle Obama to mass incarceration, the Civil War and reparations. “Fear of a Black President” is an essay which should be read closely by anyone who still believes that any action or statement of Barack Obama, rather than his status as a Black man who didn't know his place, aroused the closeted racists in this country, bringing us to the disaster we're currently experiencing.
All of the pieces are carefully referenced, based on Coates' extensive research on each subject.
Probably the most significant truth I took away from “We Were Eight Years in Power” is Coates' observation that an analyst such as himself no more needs to have formulated a solution for each problem before reporting on it than a doctor who diagnosis an illness must have a definitive cure in mind before reporting his findings. Coates' analyses—diagnoses, if you will—are spot-on and not to be missed.
It's sobering and sad to think that our Obama-era period of Black leadership--and sane leadership--may be as ephemeral as the eight years of reconstruction.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
elizabeth harris
I hope that this book and Between the World and Me become required reading in high school and university classrooms across this country. Mr. Coates is an excellent writer and I'm glad this collection of essays was put together. I truly enjoyed it, and would recommend to others.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Intelligent, articulate, and incisive -- in short, everything I anticipate when I read something by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I enjoyed the short "pre-essay" intros as well as the main pieces. There is a lot here to ponder. "The Case for Reparations" is brilliant and (for me) impossible to refute. I read the epilogue "The First White President," three times. About the only criticism I can muster is that sometimes I think things are actually worse than Mr. Coates tells us.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
mary lou
I have not read Ta-Nehisi Coates's books before, but I have seen videos of interviews and speeches he's done. He comes across as knowledgeable and with an intense, resonating  voice. I wanted to see if this was the same in his books as in his presence on stage and so I requested his newest book, a collection of essays about the years in which Obama was president, what that time was like, and what the time is like that we now face under a very different leadership.

The essays contained herein were at times a little difficult to read, not because of the way they were written but because the content deals with some truths and observations about our society that are not pleasant. Prior to each essay is a blog post Coates wrote around the same time and the very first one speaks to the experience of black people and success or failure and how those instances are used by white supremacists for their own agenda. It's heartbreaking and infuriating to see this happening and all those things again plus sobering when you see them written down.

We Were Eight Years in Power is an important book and one that I think could be very beneficial to discussions about the state of American politics and society. The essays encompass views and experiences that need to be told and shared, probably with the very people who think they don't need to read them at all. It's not the end-all-be-all book to read or to talk about, but it's definitely an essential step. The essays, interspersed with personal moments from the author, highlight the state of things in the U.S., in the politics governing the benefit or deficit of the people, and the experience growing up in a world the disgraces itself with how it treats people of different races.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
brittany dinardo
This book is a collection of eight essays by Ta-Nehisi Coates previously published in The Atlantic, one from each year of the Obama administration. Each essay is accompanied with an opening commentary that describes the circumstances, political environment and state of mind in which the essay was written including the author’s personal and professional situation at the time.

In a real sense this book is a recapitulation of some political issues taken from the past eight years and examined from an African American perspective. For regular readers of The Atlantic this may be previously read material, however the added commentary will add fresh perspective for them as well. But for the rest of us these essays provide a thorough elaboration of some issues that perhaps haven’t been previously considered.

For example, the issue of reparations explored in the “Sixth Year” is a most convincing description of the “Case for Reparations”. The clincher for me is the fact the African Americans were restricted from history’s largest wealth building program for the American middle class, the post war FHA and GI home loan programs. This is a fact from history of which I was unaware until the recent publishing of the book "The Color of Law." These restrictions continued until 1968 which in my mind is just yesterday. Consequently, the average wealth of white household is six times wealthier than for blacks, a fact that is a consequence of many years of policies— partly post-war and partly historical remnants of Jim Crow and slavery.

Another memorable essay is “My President was Black” from the "Eighth Year" that provides a thorough recollection and analysis of the Obama years. The title of Part Two of this essay provides what impresses me as a fit summary of Obama as president, "He Walked on Ice but Never Fell." Some of us tend to forget how vicious his critics were—and still are. It's an example of the old truism, a Negro needs to be twice as good to succeed. That certainly can't be said about the subsequent administration (i.e. not twice as good). Reading this essay is a reminder of the days when Americans weren't daily embarrassed by some stupid tweet from POTUS. I miss those days.

Then there's the essay, "The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration," which revisits the 1965 report written by Daniel Patrick Moynihan titled, "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action." This report has been praised and criticized by strange combinations of various groups. In this essay Ta-Nehisi Coates generally defends the content and intent of the report and accuses most critics of latching on to limited portions and ignoring the overall message and context. In many ways this essay reinforces the message contained in Michelle Alexander's book, "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness." The point made is that the rate of prison incarceration in the United States is absurdly high and is the result of many decades during which politicians were falling over each other trying to prove themselves to be the toughest on crime. The public went along with the trend because of latent racism.

The book includes an Epilogue that functions as an unnamed ninth year in which the author savages Trump's white-supremacist ideology. It is taken from an essay titled, "The First White President."

I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book from the publisher through Goodreads' giveaway program. This review is counted as "verified purchase" because I also purchased the Audible.com edition.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Ta-Nehisi Coates, writer for The Atlantic and the author of Between the World and Me, released one of the essays from his essay collection We Were Eight Years in Power in the October issue of his magazine. “The First White President” drew rave reviews, and the collection from which it was plucked is just as fabulous. With chapters such as “This Is How We Lost to the White Man” (about Bill Cosby’s version of slut-shaming for African Americans), “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” Fear of a Black President” and “The Case for Reparations,” Coates includes one lengthy essay per year of the Obama presidency. All are potent, but the epilogue, what became “The First White President” is probably the most electrifying.

Coates is often lauded as America’s best writer on race. That’s a mistake. Whites tend to see their history and current affairs as highly segregated, with the White portion being the “real” version. Coates sees history and our modern condition as the interwoven tapestry that it really is. After Matt Taibbi and Jane Mayer, Coates is the greatest political writer we have. Highly recommended.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received this book from NetGalley and Random House in exchange for an honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
received an ARC of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ latest, We Were Eight-Years in Power via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. At the time of this review, the book had not yet been published.

Let me say this, I am a huge fan of Coates’ work. I’ve read much of what he’s published for The Atlantic and devoured Between The World and Me in a day ...and then sent copies to friends as gifts!

Coates is a uniquely honest voice during a time when honesty seems to be on the wane, and I always appreciate his candor in talking about issues of race and class.

We Were Eight Years in Power is essentially a collection of Coates’ most popular essays from The Atlantic so if you’ve read Fear of a Black President, The Case for Reparations, etc., you’ll recognize most of what you’ll read in this offering.

However, what wasn’t known were the reasons for each essay. It was nice to have context and insight as to the why. Even more, he elaborates on how the rising attention he received—along with each deserved accolade—made him feel.

While he was flattered, and buoyed, by the attention, he was also leery of how such “acceptance” of his work could muddy the waters.

It was welcome insight into a brilliant writer with a powerful voice.

I already know I’ll be adding this one to my shelf as a hard copy once it’s released. Coates is a writer, whose voice I’ve come to covet, for its honesty, boldness, and dedication to making issues of class and race known without sugarcoating the facts.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
brooke palmer
Until five months ago, I had never heard of Ta-Nehisi Coates. I started seeing ads for his latest book We Were Eight Years in Power on my digital version of The New Yorker. Last week, I was sent an advance copy of the book to review (it hit bookstores on October 7th but I received an unedited version) and my world turned upside down.

The book consists of eight lengthy essays that he wrote for the Atlantic where he is now a Senior Editor. Each article represents one year that Barak Obama was President. He prefaces each one with a present day writing telling us specifics of why he wrote what he wrote and how he sees the article now, 2017. He ends with an Epilogue about President Trump "our first white president". The Guardian review calls him "the laureate of black lives".

I am a seventy year old white woman living in Paris, France. I was raised in academia, my father taught at Princeton University. I say that I was released from behind Ivy League walls at eighteen years old a very naive young woman. I have always considered myself a liberal (my sister says that is a four letter word) and always voted Democrat. Never have I felt more naive and uneducated about the realities of the class system in the United States than reading Coate's book.

Coates has a unique way of presenting his material in a New Yorker-type style while searing you with some very unpleasant truths. Truths that, the minute I read them, I knew were true though I've had my head in the sand for a long time. The Guardian says "Coates has the rare ability to express (it) in clear prose that combines historical scholarship with personal experience of being black in today’s America." He calls all types of slavery, the Klu Klux Klan, White Supremacy 'Domestic Terrorism' which, of course, it is. Slavery was outlawed over 150 years ago, Blacks have the right to vote and the Civil Rights movement, of which I partook, was supposed to have ended all the inequality. Yet Blacks are consistently killed and the killers not indicted. Laws have been passed to stop Blacks from voting at the polls. Coates probably sited 100 instances of domestic terrorism. Some I knew about, many I did not. All done in the name of keeping the White class the superior class.

His eighth chapter was specifically about Obama. What made Obama unique and able to become President of the United States was the fact that he was raised by three white people who adored him and let him know how much he was loved. He was not educated to be suspicious of white people. He was not cautioned about going into certain neighborhoods that were too dangerous for black people. He was encouraged to learn and encouraged to strive for the best. Coates stated that 71% of Republicans still believe he is Muslim and many still believe he was not born in the United States. Trump began his political career by openly challenging Obama to produce his birth certificate. For years, he stated everywhere he could be heard his "Birther" beliefs. Obama was our first black president. However, if he was not born in the US, then he couldn't be president and for the majority of people who are threatened by the idea of a black president, the string of white presidents remains unbroken.

I couldn't put Coate's book down. I learned that he was a fellow at the American Library in Paris where he wrote parts of his last book "Between the World and Me" I didn't join the Library until after he had left France and want to turn back the clock. I feel cheated. I have watched his interviews on YouTube and his presentations at ALP. He seems a soft spoken man who is very funny and still a bit overwhelmed by his fame. He told Chris Jackson, his editor and publisher of One World books, that it felt like being hit by a Mack Truck. A Mack Truck with money but still a Mack Truck!

Coates is a man who has a lot to be angry about. But he has chosen to channel that energy into educating people like me about "Reality". He is not surprised by a Trump presidency. I was. We Were Eight Years in Power felt like a fist to my gut. It hurt. I needed the painful punch. I didn't choose what color my skin is anymore than Coates did. I have been fortunate. A whole class of my compatriots have not been.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Coates has given us a book that is part a collection of his Atlantic Monthly articles and his retrospective analysis of those articles centered around the Obama Presidency. His intense focus is on race and how racism skews modern life for all of us. Be prepared for his considerable interest in history as he builds his case. I found his writing easy to understand and compelling. His basic humility shows through as does his desire to create quality prose ala James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time. It would be impossible to come away from this book believing that we are at all close to any kind of solution for our racial divisions. Just about every day I see events on the news that reminds me that Coates is well tuned to our racial tragedy..
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
nuno tuna
Erudite!!! What a brilliant writer. You may not agree with all his conclusions, but if you are reading this book, you will love the way he writes. Very thought provoking particularly the chapter on reparations. Though I did like the last chapter best. Read it in the Atlantic and that is why I bought the book. I do not think that I ever appreciated the depth of racism, or perhaps more accurately, the level of white superiority pathology in the United States. It was so sad.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
brandy stangland burks
I was thrilled when I received an Advance Reader's Copy of We Were Eight Years in Power from Random House because I love LOVE loved Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and even included it in my list of 5 favorite reads from 2016! Coates has a wonderful style of writing that will leave you breathless (intentionally so as the author mentions in one part of this collection) and I will continue to gobble down his pieces.

We Were Eight Years in Power is a collection of 9 pieces that Coates has written for The Atlantic in the past 9 years, thus if you've been following Coates's online articles, you've likely read some or all of these pieces before (they're all still available online too). Before each piece begins, Coates ties each of the pieces to where he was personally, blending in some of the memoir style exemplified in Between the World and Me, and where America was socially, culturally, economically, and politically. This means that he often connects his pieces to the Obama administration (pre- and post-) and mentions how it influenced his articles, even if not explicitly stated in the features. I often found the justifications and positioning of when the pieces were written to be more interesting than the earlier pieces in the collection, probably because I found myself more interested in Coates and his reflections than Bill Cosby's weird and harmful conservatism regarding the black community (something I hadn't read about before now). It would have been nice if the dates that the pieces were originally published had been included next to their titles, in order to help the reader position when it occurred; this would also help this book stand 20 years from now if something happened that wasn't common or accepted knowledge at the time of first publication (such as the widespread depths of Cosby's transgressions, which Coates does acknowledge in the introduction for that piece, but would be missing for things uncovered in the future).

The collection includes pieces about (1) Bill Cosby, (2) Michelle Obama, (3) The Civil War, (4) Malcolm X, (5) Fear of a Black President, which is commentary on how Obama talked about race during his first presidential term, (6) The Case for Reparations , a viral piece that's widely assigned on my college campus according to my undergrads, (7) Mass Incarceration, (8) My President was Black, a feature on Obama and reflections on his presidency, and (9) White Supremacy and Trump, a piece that serves as the epilogue and also recently went viral under the title The First White President .

The pieces become progressively longer as the reader progresses through the collection, presumably aligning with the growth of Coates's readership and The Atlantic assuming that their digital readers would stay along for the ride and full length of the pieces. In my opinion, Coates's writing strengthens throughout the collection, building upon his years of writing experience. In the introductions, Coates also corrects some errors that were in the previous publications of pieces or properly acknowledges sources that were neglected in the original publications.

At times, We Were Eight Years in Power could feel like reading an accessible textbook, but a textbook nevertheless. The readings are dense and cannot be pored over in one sitting. I really liked the collection, but if someone were completely unfamiliar with Coates, this would not be the first piece of his I recommended. Instead, I would thrust Between the World and Me into their hands and emphatically encourage them to read it immediately. It's a bit more accessible and shorter and, within this collection, Coates perfectly sums up Between the World and Me with this description of his mindset at the time of writing, "I imagined of crafting a singular essay, in the same fashion (as James Baldwin), meant to be read in a few hours but to haunt for years."

I recommend We Were Eight Years in Power to people already familiar with Coates and who haven't read each of these pieces online yet. If you're not familiar with Coates, make Between the World and Me the next book that you read.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a digital copy of this book for free from Random House Publishing Group - Random House One World via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in the review are my own and have not been influenced by Random House or NetGalley.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
amy hertz
As a collection of Coates' most influential essays spanning the Obama years, this works really well. A lot of these are essential articles that everyone should read (mass incarceration and case for reparations especially) but they come with the added bonus that Coates has looked back on each and evaluated where he was mentally and developmentally as he wrote each of them. He also provides his own critique of each as to what he feels their successes and shortfalls are. It is a great way to really get into his process and revisit some of the most essential views of the Obama years with a person who has an amazing viewpoint and voice.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
These essays are very helpful if you want to understand what racism in America really means. When you’re not the target of racism, when you don’t have to deal with it permeating every aspect of your life, it’s hard to always understand the point of view of people who are. At least in a deep and meaningful way. This book helps.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
michal schindler
For an immigrant like me, it provides a very good history of race and racial politics in this country. Its so funny that many arguments made in the current political era is so reminiscent of the same thought process for last 150 years or more.

Feels like a honest telling from Ta-NehiSi.

I wish the author could have articulated it in simpler form because sometimes i need to read couple of times to grasp the idea.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
elisa mesiani
Coates calls us all out, describes and decries the sins upon the sins, yet somehow holds onto hope. His message is harsh yet his hand reaches out gently and invites you to walk into a better world. As is his style the writing at times is so beautiful it brings tears that anyone could paint this way with words as his only color. Read this only if your heart is open. If your mind is sure you understand everything you will find only rocks being thrown at your wall.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bronwyn harris
I found this book very enlightening, he made me see things and think of things I can honestly say I never wanted to think about. My heart breaks for this country and it’s people. I am unapologetically hopeful that we as mankind can look pass our external differences and focus on our internal similarities.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
cori m
We Were Eight Years in Power is a collection of essays, written during the eight years of the Obama presidency. As a longtime subscriber to The Atlantic, I had read several of these pieces previously. The book does offer a substantial amount of new material: an introduction, epilogue, and lengthy "notes" by the author before each essay.

The essays are uniformly excellent and thought provoking. "My President Was Black" is a must-read reflection on the role race plays in US politics, and the author's own sometimes conflicting feelings about the first black president. The notes sections are more of a mixed bag. They are at their best when the author uses the space to take a fresh look at his previously published works, which he does frequently during the early chapters. Some of the later notes are less focused and therefore less poignant.

Readers of the excellent Between the World and Me will already be familiar with the author's life, opinions and political leanings, so much of the content here that is unique to this book concerns the twilight of the Obama era and the rise of Donald Trump. Ta-Nehisi Coates is an important voice of dissent in the Trump era. Sadly, he will likely have much more to write about in the coming years.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
varinka franco williams
A powerful collection of essays on race and racism in America, reflecting the author's evolving understanding of these issues over the eight years of the Obama presidency. Half of these entries are drawn, roughly one per year, from articles originally published in The Atlantic; the rest have been newly written for this volume in the dawn of the Trump administration. Throughout, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes movingly and convincingly on the historical forces of racial injustice that survive today, the ways in which the unique figure of Barack Obama has navigated them, and how they have ultimately led us to his successor in the Oval Office.

It's as meditative and elegiac as the title suggests, using a racial lens to examine both the triumphs and flaws of the Obama White House but especially to mourn its passing. Yet despite that focus, the language is less poetic than the author's earlier work Between the World and Me, which I personally appreciate. This is an accessible book for all of us who have had our eyes opened over the course of the past decade, and it deserves to be read widely.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jane myerow
I am a fan of Ta-Nehisi Coates. I have been reading most of what he has written since I first ran across his writing with the Reparations article in the Atlantic. I have gone back and read some of his earlier work and very much appreciated his Between the World and Me.

Eight Years in Power is not a new book of non-fiction, but a repackaging of his Atlantic essays. When I first realized this I was a bit disappointed, but I signed up for a review copy, and because I had not finished it yet, I picked up the audiobook to finish it. The introductions to each essay and the general introduction to the piece made this worth picking up even if you have read a number of the essays previously. They gave more context to both the world we are in during Obama's presidency, but also into Coates' own biography as a writer.

I am roughly the same age as Coates but we have lived very different lives. To me that makes his biographical pieces more interesting to me, although maybe not for everyone. Coates really is a fascinating author. I am not sure every essay shines. A few I think could have been a bit more tightly edited. But part of what I like about Coates is his willingness to have an extended argument. This book really is an extended argument about the ongoing role of White Supremacy in the US, not disproved by Obama as president, but exposed by Obama as president.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This collection of essays was a real eye-opener for me. Coates writes about many historical events and facts that I had never heard about (I didn't grow up in the US). The book is very well written and extremely well researched. I have been struggling to understand how a country that voted twice for Barack Obama could then vote for the current inhabitant of the White House. Ta-Nehisi Coates really helped me understand this on a very deep level.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
emily fraser
Eye opening! Must read! From the slavery to the present time, this is one of the most comprehensive studies on what white Supremacy has done to this country .America does not want to face and end its ugly shame, just wants to pretend it never existed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
matt kelley
A wonderful read. Wish he hadn’t deleted his Twitter because there’s so much to say about this beautiful book. Lovely final essay and epilogue. Worth the read even if I don’t always agree. Wonderful job!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
maryam karimi
Some of this book is excellent. The total focus on victim mentality and his opinion that everything is racist takes away from the total issue. He blames everything that is part of black culture on racism, even tho he writes about a black person that was elected by a "racist" nation to the presidency. He makes statements like "that the lack of both ceilings and safety nets, is how we got a black president...and is how....I came to thrive" and "as much as I loved the culture of France....I knew I was lucky not to have been born there" and then goes on to blame all of the black communities ills on racism. He blames the election of Donald Trump on racism, never acknowledging that Hillary was the worst candidate out of all the democrats running. This book does cover the history of racism fairly well, and it's hard to argue about the negative history of the country. His opinion that most anyone who is not black is racist is oversimplifying the issue. Many of his opinions are filtered by being black and angry.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Ta-Nehisi Coates has become the go-to guy on writing about race from the perspective of African-Americans. Happily, this is a role he doesn't shirk from, in fact he eagerly embraces his status. "I had become The Atlantic’s “Black Writer”—a phrase that described both my identity and my interests. There was always a sense that African American journalists should avoid being tagged as “black” lest they be “boxed in” and unable to pursue more “universal” topics such as the economy and global policy. But the more I wrote, the more I saw I wasn’t boxed in as much as those who dismissed my chosen beat were boxed out."

That perspective, I think is important and makes him an effective writer, you have to be purposeful in your writing to have the kind of impact he has had in these last eight years. So the book is a collection of eight essays pulled from his writing at the Atlantic magazine, but with each essay, we get a companion piece that gives us an idea of what Mr. Coates was thinking at the time and where he was, not only mentally but physically in his personal life. "The title comes from congressman Thomas Miller. In 1895, as his state moved from the egalitarian innovations of Reconstruction to an oppressive “Redemption,” Miller appealed to the state’s constitutional convention: We Were Eight Years in Power and then he lists the great things that were accomplished over the past eight years hoping to stave off the dismantling of reconstruction. Ta-Nehisi smartly has his finger on the pulse of race relations in this country and is clear and unambiguous in his writing and these essays are a powerful testament to his talent. It is interesting to read his commentary on his own work as he looks back in the companion portions.

The strongest essay is probably also the one that helped put his name on the proverbial map, The Case For Reparations.The numbers, the situations, the wrongs, the overall plunder of Black life eloquently described in this essay leaves little room for questions other than how and when will reparations be executed. He certainly makes the case for reparations crystal clear to the point of how can one object to the argument, but with emotional and financial rebuffs. "With segregation, with the isolation of the injured and the robbed, comes the concentration of disadvantage. An unsegregated America might see poverty, and all its effects, spread across the country with no particular bias toward skin color. Instead, the concentration of poverty has been paired with a concentration of melanin. The resulting conflagration has been devastating." Is this not indisputable?

This is a book that needs to be read and studied. Ta-Nehisi is fully engaged and is brave, bold and brilliant in these pages and is not hesitant to call out white supremacy, respectability politics among Blacks, and even then President Obama in print and in personal meetings. All of this feels timely given the current state of affairs. I'm glad he Ta-Nehisi has risen to international prominence, his voice is needed and we're lucky to be able to read such an honest, intelligent, committed young man. Do yourself a favor and mark October 3, 2017 on your calendar. A big thank you to OneWorld and Netgalley for providing an advanced ebook in exchange for an honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Coates, through copious research, details the racial divide in this country. He refuses to comfort the reader with anything other than the obvious conclusion that our country is behaving as it always has.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Very solid and strong book about the state of affairs as we know it. The writing style makes this book easy to read but is also thought provoking at the same time. I truly enjoyed this book. Very powerful and a book that all should read. Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for the ARC of this book in return for my honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
irene ramirez
Coates' newest book is stellar in its focus. It offers insight and honesty to the racial scene in the United States that many people do not want to admit to or recognize. This should be required reading for anyone entering a high school in the US.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I've read articles by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic so I picked this up at the library because I've been impressed by his well-written, honest writing. This book did not disappoint, however disturbing and outranged it made me feel. This will be a book I'll need to buy so I can reread to absorb the information and ideas more fully.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Everyone should read these essays. Coates is brilliant and insightful. It is difficult reliving what was happening that led to the current horror we live in, but important as things are only going to get worse. I wish I could make the far right and the far left read this and every white person. Coates deserves every award he has won and will win. I have not read Between the World and Me but I plan to very soon.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
beth clavin heldebrandt
Prior to reading this collection of essays, my knowledge of Mr. Coates was limited to comments from him I had heard on news programs or read in newspaper articles or quotes from him that people had posted or shared on Facebook.  My opinion of him was not the greatest.  I requested to read and review “We Were Eight Years in Power” expecting that I would find much with which to disagree.  However, I think there is value in learning opposing viewpoints and Mr. Coates is regarded in some circles as one of the leading intellectuals in the US, so his essays seemed a good choice. In the end, I found less to disagree with than I expected. I am glad I took the opportunity to read "We Were Eight Years In Power."

While the legacy of slavery, racism, white supremacy, discriminatory policies has certainly negatively impacted black communities, both individually and collectively, to a significant degree, I think Mr. Coates goes to far in his argument that a legacy of white supremacy is the primary cause of the ongoing struggles of the black community. However, that is a debate far too involved and far too deep for a book review.

One of the strengths of this book is Mr. Coates discussion of his life, including the choices he wished he had not made (such as dropping out of college), how he happened to be at the right/write place at the right time with the presidential aspirations and then successful election of Barack Obama, and how his writing and his views on American history, racism, white supremacy, etc. grew and evolved as he had increased opportunities to study and research the issues, talk with prominent black thinkers and writers, and talk with people who had experienced specific forms of racism (such as mass segregation of housing in Chicago) and how those forms of racism were rooted in government policies.

I particularly liked his discussion of James Baldwin and Malcolm X. Although I have not read any of Baldwin's books, I am familiar with his reputation as both a prominent black writer and social critic and as a great writer in general. However, Mr. Coates discussion of James Baldwin and how Baldwin's writing influenced Coates thinking and his aspirations as a writer provided a greater understanding of Baldwin's importance.

As for Malcolm X, I have never seen the movie or read his biography. My knowledge of Malcolm X was limited to what I had read in history books or magazine articles or what I had heard on television programs, which was not the most flattering, as it tended to focus on his association with the black power/black nationalist movement and the Nation of Islam. In my lifetime, the Nation of Islam has been led by the virulent racist Louis Farrakhan, so being associated with the Nation of Islam is a strong negative. However, Mr. Coates portrays a more nuanced picture of Malcolm X that acknowledges both his strengths and his flaws and portrays an individual deserving of more respect and consideration than my previous limited knowledge would have warranted.

I think two of the more compelling essays are the essay that talks about housing discrimination, with a focus on Chicago, and the essay on mass incarceration.

I think Mr. Coates depiction of Barack Obama, both in terms of his formative years and rise to the presidency and in terms of his eight years as president, is fairly decent. There is a lot of truth to how Barack Obama's unconventional upbringing and opportunities, as well as his status as half white/half black, allowed him to navigate a white-dominated political world and appeal both to white and black communities in a way that a black man growing up in Baltimore (where Mr. Coates was born and raised) or Philadelphia or Chicago, or the Deep South would be unable to do so.

However, Mr. Coates seems to display some naivety about Barack Obama character when it comes to political gain, in particular Obama's willingness to overlook "dirty politics" by his campaign and supporters to advance his career. Obama won the U.S. Senate seat for Illinois because his campaign pressured the Chicago Tribune to release damaging information about the Democratic candidate who was leading in the polls for the primary (Blair Hull), which forced the candidate to drop out, and then was involved in the Tribune's publication of damaging information about Jack Ryan, the Republican nominee, forcing him to drop out late in the race (a problem the IL GOP compounded by recruiting an outsider to replace him on the ballot). If not for the dirty dealing, Blair Hull likely wins the Democratic nomination and the Senate race and Barack Obama likely remains a state politician.

Mr. Coates also displays naivety about the Obama Administration. He repeatedly comments about how President Obama's eight years in office were largely free of scandal. He is certainly correct that President Obama and his family displayed a sense of morality that was absent in the prior Democratic Administration (Bill Clinton) and his daughters avoided the embarrassing antics of the Bush twins (although the younger ages of the Obama daughters certainly helped). However, the Obama Administration had some rather significant scandals that the President never really took seriously or properly addressed, such as Fast and Furious, Solyndra, the abusive behavior of the IRS towards conservative organizations, and Benghazi. The Civil Rights Division of the DOJ under Eric Holder displayed a strong racialist agenda, alleging racism in situations were it was present, but also situations were it was not present, and ignoring or downplaying civil rights violations when the victims were groups disfavored by liberals. The Obama Administration also prosecuted whistleblowers and journalists under the Espionage Act at an unprecedented rate (more than all prior administrations combined).

I received a copy of the Kindle version via NetGalley in exchange for a review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kelly mcmahon
Like many reviewers here, I had read most of the essays in their initial appearance inThe Atlantic. It was great to revisit the essays and also to see them prefaced with new reflections and introductions by Ta-Nehisi Coates. These prefaces function as a sort of memoir of the Obama years, Coates' growth as a writer and a reluctant celebrity author. Coates also is brutally honest about the failings in his writings as well as celebratory about his successes. This is an essential collection of writings about race and life in the early 21st century.
Highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
My introduction to Ta-Nehisi Coates was through his article "The Case for Reparations," which I was assigned to read for a seminar on the opening day of my grad school career. When "Between the World and Me" came out and launched Mr. Coates into the position of "America's leading black intellectual," I sought it out and read it in a single sitting. Any book that comes with a blurb from Toni Morrison has to be good (and it was). "The Beautiful Struggle" predated "World," but I found it and read it as well (and it's a powerful memoir worthy of your time as well). But now we have Ta-Nehisi Coates revisiting his past and the country's eight years under a black president, which suddenly takes on a whole new meaning in the era of, as he puts it, America's first white president.

"We Were Eight Years in Power" collects eight of Coates' powerful essays and articles from the Obama years, interspersed with introductions to each piece which document Coates' own rise to prominence during the era. First and foremost, this is less about Obama than about the world that he oversaw, and the hopes (and frustrations) endemic in a powerful voice being placed in such a position of relevance and power. As Coates demonstrates again and again, Barack Obama's presidency was destined to be historic no matter what he did; that so much of what he attempted was either scuttled by an obstructionist Congress or is currently in the process of being revoked by a jealous, mean-spirited and failed "reality TV star" is telling in a country that has prided itself on being the world's "last, best hope" for democratic rule. Coates is interested not just in the machinations of Washington; "The Case for Reparations," included here, helps make the case that the Civil War may be long over, but the reverberations over slavery and what to do with the enslaved (and their descendants) is a thorny issue in our national dialogue (and one that a lot of people would prefer that we don't discuss).

As much as anything, Coates is writing about himself in the introductions, taking us though his own evolution to a self-described college dropout (he opens with a scene from his enrollment in an unemployment class designed to supposedly help people find work) to a voice that America pays attention to because of the power of his words. Coates is often hard on himself when describing how each essay was found lacking upon further review (a quality that writers like myself, with nowhere near the platform as Coates but with plenty of work from our past that is embarrassing for what it says about how we felt at the time, for good or ill, can relate to), but each essay and article speaks to a facet of the Obama era and why it changed America forever, even if it may not seem like the victories achieved during those eight years will last. Let's be honest here; there's a good chance that the whole reason Trump and his minions are doing what they're doing is to erase Obama from the history books, to render his administration "fake news" or an outlier in an unbroken chain of white power and privilege. I hope they don't succeed, but I fear that they might.

If I had to pick a favorite piece, it would be "Reparations," which still has the power to make me, a white man who never thought of himself as "privileged," uncomfortable in the knowledge that even on my worst days, I would never be treated with the casual disregard that a person of color might in similar circumstances. Ta-Nehisi Coates isn't writing to comfort the white liberals in the room who already agree with him but who are blind to their own culpability, their own failure to stand tall for America's first black president. Many of you who read this book might be similarly uncomfortable with some of the conclusions that Coates works towards. Too bad; this is the truth of the era, and of the current era (or error) we're experiencing at this moment. We need more voices like Ta-Nehisi Coates; we need to listen to them. I know I have, and will continue to do so.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Excellent book by an intellectual of Black History in America. Helped me to better understand that White Supremacists like Trump truly fear "Good Negro government". Despite this history, or maybe because of it, it is hard for me to forgive White Republicans for electing a White Supremacist to lead our country in the 21st century.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nzbook girl
I wish everyone could read this book. If they are white then they must begin with a Tabla Rosa. For history written and taught about race on this country has been written by white men and even liberals have been coopted through their “white innocence” and this is how we have come to allow a Trump presidency to arise and remain despite its power to destroy so much progress.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
In this powerful and wrenching collection of essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates weighs the personal, the political, and the cultural forces interacting during the Obama administration and the following election of Trump to the White House. Thematically linked to his BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME, WE WERE EIGHT YEARS IN POWER collects recent essays originally appearing in THE ATLANTIC as well as new material of the moment. A poignant and persuasive indictment of American racism and entrenched political power, this volume deserves attention and will earn respect.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
cathy botte
Having studied and attempting to understand white privilege in myself and others, I chose Mr. Coates book because having read Between the world and me, I knew he would inspire me to be introspective and to broaden my view of our society and he delivered. A true intellectual,
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
noel miller
I love reading Coates and this POV during the Obama administration. This book has about 60% of his older Atlantic articles, and 40% new material. I liked that there were new introductions before the old articles. Whether you’ve read Coates before or not, I would recommend this book. It’s a modern parallel of black American history from slavery until modern day.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The thing that will draw most people to this book is the desire to understand systemic racism more deeply. On this count, it certainly delivers. But what really makes this book special is how Coates essentially gives the reader a clinic on how to write. What absolute skill and art! I can't recommend this book highly enough.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kate s book spot
Such a sad description of the events that happens before during and little after the elections of Barack Obama, such a disillusionment after the election of trump; I like the way the author has to put everything in perspective, but as I just came back from one month in the U.S., the situation is pretty dire out there and this book helped me understand why people voted for who is even worse than berlusconi ever was, and that's a lot to say.....

Una triste descrizione degli avvenimenti accaduti prima, durante e dopo gli anni di Barack Obama alla casa bianca, una totale devastazione al risultato delle ultime elezioni, ma questo libro nella sua lucida disamina degli eventi, mi ha aiutato a capire come mai la gente abbia votato per trump che é addirittura peggiore di quanto berlusconi sia mai stato, che é dire proprio tanto....
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
robin morgan
I am late discovering Ta- Nehisi Coates. I read his Atlantic article The First White President thrice. Wow. I bought 3 copies of The Atlantic (2 for my art and 1 to keep) and I bought this book We were Eight Years in Power. My expectations for this book were modest; but I felt obliged to support this brilliant, courageous author. (I will subscribe to the Atlantic too.) But as I started to read this book, I realized how mistaken my modest expectations were. With the introduction, I was amazed and educated. Then I read Notes from the First Year page 5 and 6..and then I stopped reading; I needed to write this book review. My heart is pounding, this man mirrors my pain, my struggles, my sense of failure, my hopes, my anger. Ta-Nehisi Coates writes with deep intelligence about race, bigotry and injustice; he writes with open heart about struggle, hope and possibility. Ta-Nehisis Coates needs to be read and reread by everyone who hopes and struggles for justice. OK, that said, now I can get back to the book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jessica surgett
Ta-Nehisi Coates is publishing old and new essays, previously published in The Atlantic, on the politics of America and the reality of race. Hatred and bigotry have plagued the US since the founding of this experiment we call democracy. Racism did not end when we elected Barack Obama as some of us, in all our naivete, believed it would. In fact, it seems to have fueled it, and all those with ignorance and malice as their core beliefs have come forward in droves. We only have to look back to what happened in Charlottesville to know that a young generation of men and women hate anyone who does not fit their definition of American, white and Christian.

Coates knows his history, and this is a book that serves us well in remembering how this country found its roots and foundation, on the backs of slave labor. The founding fathers provided a framework that guided its formation: white men who came to the US and remained for one year would gain citizenship. We all know the rest of the story, and if we do not, this is the book to read. It contains hard facts and a story of Coates own experience and that of his family. This book will be one we turn to often in the future whenever we need to know why we are frustrated and why everything stays the same even though we had the exemplary man Barack Obama as our president. Those days were heady and hopeful. Today, it is a dark time. If we listen to Obama, we will look to the next pivot of American history to purge the office of a racist and find a suitable leader for the US.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
“Gloria, I think I want to try.” That is what the author, Ta-Nahesi Coates, tells his agent, Gloria Loomis, in response to her comment, regarding James Baldwin: “Well Jimmy, he was one of a kind… No one could ever write like Jimmy.” I first read Coates’s work Between the World and Me a year ago, and gave it a 5-star review that I entitled “The Fire Next Time,” which was the work Coates was reading when he called his agent. In many ways, he has achieved his objective. When he is clicking on all cylinders, his writing sears the soul.

And I learned a lot. Always the mark of an important work, particularly on a subject like race relations in America, a subject with which I have had more than just a passing interest. “In the beginning,” as it were, there was slavery in America, and it was a very important factor in the country’s development and wealth. Coates emphasizes that “King Cotton” produced many millionaires and mansions along the Mississippi valley, the result of extracting the value of the labor of black men and women without compensation. The hopes for a more equitable society after the Civil War were dashed by a white backlash that enforced its will by law and by terrorism, which merited no “war” upon. Coates writes of walking over many Civil War battlefields to gain a better understanding, and asks why so few other Blacks do. One of the most illuminating sections involved the “contract” housing practices in Chicago (as well as other cities.) For so many Americans, their principal source of wealth is the equity in their homes. It was the government’s policy to make standard bank mortgages available to whites, and to deny these standard bank mortgages to blacks, due to the self-fulfilling prophesy that property values would decline in their neighborhoods. Blacks would have to rely on “contract sellers” who were much more vicious than even banks in terms of duplicity. And then there is the mass incarceration of blacks today, an appalling practice in which America is the world’s leader, by far.

There is much more, including that of a personal nature. He tells of his mother’s efforts, at times tortuous, to overcome and change her “nappy hair,” until she decided to celebrate it. His father came back from the Vietnam War radicalized and would become both a vegetarian and a Black Panther. Coates’ friend, Prince Jones, was shot and killed by the police, though he neglects to mention, as he did in his previous work, that the police officer was black. A version of “friendly fire”? Coates would eventually have access to President Obama, which resulted in a corresponding willingness to “pull some punches” in his fleeting criticism of him. His sharpest criticism involved the wrongful (and very quick) firing of Shirley Sherrod, ironically, due to the Obama’s administrations acceptance of “fake news.” Coates would like to portray this as an isolated incident; others have seen it as more symptomatic of the core problems of his administration.

Dreams and “Dreamers” are much in the news of late. My subject quote does not relate to them, but rather to Lillian Smith’s book Killers of the Dream, a book I have reviewed on the store, after a re-read, six years ago. I was given a heavily underlined copy of this book almost exactly half a century ago. The giver explained, among other matters, why she refused to eat watermelon, due to negative stereotyping, something at the time I was totally unaware of. She also had a reasonable amount of anger towards whites, and I figured she had a right to be, since she came from Ms. Sherrod’s hometown of Albany, GA, and had been one of the first three women to integrate that city’s high school. High on her list of resentments was how her “nappy hair” had been ridiculed. It is Smith’s book, written in 1949, that provides the core critique to Coates’ advocacy of “reparations.”

No question, after reading his impressive piece on reparations, most sentient beings’ blood would be boiling at the injustices that have been done. Blacks have been swimming with 20 lbs. weights, having to be “twice as good” to just be even with whites. There has been, and continues to be a grand theft of both labor and property. Coates never explains how reparations might work; only advocates Congressman Conyers’ bill that we should begin to discuss it. What could be the harm? A lot, I figure. Unmentioned in his essay are many other groups that have had those 20 lbs. weights, like the American Indians who lost their lands and way of life. How about the majority? Women. Denied the right to vote for at least a hundred years after it was granted to (some) black men. Denied property rights in marriage. Still paid less for the same work. They too have had to be “twice as good.” Homosexuals have their list of very real grievances, including the criminalization of their core nature. Veterans and negative stereotyping. Veteran status is far more likely to be cited by the media as the causative factor in the commission of a crime than skin color. Grievances, there are more than a few, impossible to sort out, save for the solution that Coates derides: a more just economic system that lifts all the boats.

I live in “fly-over country,” as those coastal elites dub us. We both speak English, but not the same language. Coates, like many others in the media and academics, search for the reasons why their candidate lost the 2016 election, when her victory should have been a “slam-dunk.” Germany, after World War I, should remain a cautionary example of finding the wrong reason for a defeat. Coates, very much, posits a vast reserve of racism, particularly in the lower economic orders, who have pale skin. Why shouldn’t the answer be found in that word “lower,” whose boats are stuck in the mud.

There is not the slightest hint that there is a very valid reason for a vast reservoir of dissatisfaction with the Obama administration: his economic policies. Sure, he inherited an “economic mess,” almost as serious as the Great Depression. He hires the bandits that stole the money to “fix it”; no surprise, they did, to their benefit. Coates mentions only in passing that no one went to jail. Could you ever get Congress to pass a bill that would provide Wall Street with three trillion dollars? Of course not. So, you have the Fed “expand its balance sheet” (such a positive sounding action) by three tril, a bit at a time, as it purchases those truly junk bonds in “tranches,” which the boys (and girls) in the bars of Peoria and Wheeling may not be able to pronounce, but they understood what it means: there is something truly rotten in the State of DC. Mired in debt, limited work options at very limited pay, not much imagination is required to understand their reaction when President Obama brags, in a State of the Union address, that he got the “DOW back to record highs.” And so why should we be surprised that some of them, including those who voted for him twice, opted for such an unlikely “fix,” since he had an “attitude”?

Back in 1949, Lillian Smith explained the system whereby the proverbial boys in the back room, with the cigars and brandy, as the one tenth of one percent were called then, maintained their dominance all the way to the bank, by pitting poor whites against poor blacks. Reparations, and assuming the reason Clinton lost is that there are a lot of “deplorables” out there are part and parcel of that game of divide and rule. Let’s not agree to play this time, and ponder how, during just one year of the Obama administration, 25 hedge fund managers took 21 billion dollars off the top. They’d like to have the “rubes” in Wheeling, and the elites of NYC believe that they “earned” that money. We, the 99.999…% should tell them it can and should be put to much better uses, with the first step being acknowledging that it occurred. Yet there is not a word of this in Coates account, and an extra sip of brandy must be taken in celebration when the focus is on the latest outrageous racist or sexist cartoon circulated by some nitwit rather than those grasping hands in the cookie jar.

Oh, a decade after I was given Smith’s book, which I still cherish, I saw the giver again, who had moved on, far, from the ridicule and trauma of high school, more severe in her case that for most of us. Proudly sporting an Afro, with that nappy hair. Smiled when she said she enjoyed eating watermelon now. And her hostility towards whites was, well, let’s say, attenuated. A lesson for all of us, and I will conclude with one more valuable one that Coates gave me: I need to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley, still valid, after so many years. And a query: Who is the “we” in the title, kimosabe? 4-stars.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
"If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail". Coates confesses early on that at some point in his youth he decided to dedicate himself to protest, resistance, and like grievances. This is certainly a powerful example of protest literature (often protest in search of a cause), but those looking for insight, nuance or an enlightened way forward will be disappointed.

I am a white guy and conservative/libertarian, but having heard of Coates' eloquence from several sources I thought I would see what he had to say. My instincts are skeptical toward the cult of victimhood and grievance, but good conscience dictates an honest hearing of all sides. Coates is not really fair, or sometimes even honest, but I doubt he cares. He is a polemicist who has mastered the art of have-truths, false dichotomies, straw-man arguments, and every other low technique of rabble rousing and angry disputation. Great for the true believers, but not likely to win any new converts. But first the good stuff:

Coates, in the depths of his fever-dream anger against America and white people, has some entertaining and even enlightening observations, for which I honor hiim for. His observation that our sentimentalist rememberance of the Civil War is just white people forgiving each other for the sins of slavery, while ignorig the suffering of blacks, was a shocker, but a great reassesment. And his comment that (I paraphrase) "for white opioid addicts there is treatment and sympathy, but for crack addicts its mandatory minimums and scorn", is beautiful and I will quote him on this whenever I can.

Ultimately, this collection of essays is just exhausting and so single-minded in its obsession with "white supremacy" that it moves from controversy, to absurdity, to just camp. Apparently everything that has ever happened in America is all about black people, slavery and Jim Crow: we were founded to enslave them, slaves built America and we wouldn't exist but for them (although the economy didn't suffer any after the Civil War - hmmm), the resistance to Obama's policies was racist, the Tea Party was an expression of white supremecist anxiety, Trump was a reastablishment of white supremecist tyranny, and on and on. Meanwhile, there is no dysfuntion in the black community that can't be blamed on white folk. This rant is all entertaining for black intellectuals and guilty white liberals, but empty of direction.

One would hope that Coates will turn his lazer-beam intellect on some other subjects: how about the sick symbiosis between liberals, who use black grievance as a doormat for their self-righteousness and votes for the Democratic party, and blacks who get in return the public-assistance gravy train and a pass on bad behavior? How about an honest discussion about the meaning of so called white "supremacy" and "privelege" - is this about race or is it just resistance to Western Civilization's culture of middle-class values?

And one final observation, and I would hope Coates and his ilk would take this in the best possible way. The thought kept coming in to my mind while reading this: "why do I care?" I'm pretty sure that the way forward toward the most fair and stable society possible is not through the mirage of "reparations", wallowing in the guilt of the sins of past generations, or yelling at white people because of the color of their skin. As a white person, I guess you want something out of me, but not sure just what that is. What IS the plan for a better future, Ta-Nehisi? Or is that not your game?
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
rhonda masse
Let me preface this review by saying that I am white, a male, and middle-class. All these are crimes in the modern SJW world we live in. And to someone like Coates, the author of this book, my opinion probably doesn’t matter at all. That said, I picked up this book as a fan of Mr. Coates’ run writing the Marvel Comics character Black Panther, since 2016. Nothing could prepare me for the collection of angsty rants called essays in this book.

Coates is of the mind that somehow white america is guilty of everything, has been guilty of everything and wants nothing more than the keep the black people down. His repeated and scathing remarks of “white folks” oozes with venom and contempt and nothing but pure racism towards whites. His views on history are that of a black man who can’t let anything go, and who would rather recount a revisionist account of events, lazily using only sources that back up his one-sided, racist views. Worse, Coates comes off as if he himself suffered the injustice of slavery and Jim Crow. That all the crimes against black people were somehow encapsulated in his own experience.

And don’t think that there is any hope of either Coates changing his radical views or of an America to his satisfaction. No. Whites only want, only tolerate, blacks who act white and deny their cultural heritage. That’s the lesson Coates wants us to learn. And if you’re a Civil War buff? Forget it. So is he, and it’s really the blacks war now. Coates spits on the valued opinions and research of Civil War historians Shelby Foote and Bruce Catton.

I’ve never been more angry reading a book as I was while reading this one. Never been so insulted, so mistified and so disappointed. Reading this book, you’d think all blacks hate whites the way Coates clearly does. It’s a shame this man gets work, spewing his hatred for American history, culture and half its population. Stay away from this book or any book with Coates’ name on it.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Just read the "The First White President" article from this book. What a premeditated racist title "The First White President" to begin with! Awful!
Can't believe the racist BS this article perpetrates and promotes as truth. His initial premises and ideas are so manipulated and intentionally spun out of control with his arguments presented that it becomes absolute nonsense and rubbish at the end. Apparently you can't be white and have a conservative view on life that differs from President Obama or the authors and not be a complete racist. Everything done, all policies and even your very thoughts that are different than President Obama are from your inner racism as a white person. Utter trash and BS. He is now making conservative views racist to even hold as they oppose many of President Obamas views. I'm for a United States, this article and author are about the DIVIDED states of America, with racism as his tool for his own personal power for obtaining followers. He attacks the founding fathers and how the US came to even be, as a robbery and theft of land and power. I believe this country is divinely blessed and our founders where inspired by God to write a constitution granting freedoms and liberties for all men, yes all men of any color. The founders of this great nation were men inspired of God, to the blessing and benefit of all colors and races so long as we keep God's commandments.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
After fighting for civil rights and equality since the late 1960's in college, it saddens me to read tripe like this which does not share or show how far we have come and the realization that much of the current state of race relations and marginalization of blacks in particular are due to self-inflicted wounds and the inability to "accept equality" instead of "speciality".
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Garbage. Racist writing. Since the author isn't interested in anything that I, as a white, descendants of settlers, raised poor male have to think ,why should I be interested in anything he has to say about the America he and others want to create because he/they won't work with Americans that have different opinions and different ideas. I read this to try to see things from a diffent point of view.

Ta-Nahisi Coates is every bit as much a white supremacist as Richard Spencer... In Coates world, whites are the only ones with agency, the only ones that can act to change the external circumstance, and despite their best efforts, blacks are powerless before even the whites' unintentional or unwitting racism.

The American Nazi party once made an alliance with Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam... I wonder what might happen if BLM and the Alt-right ever got to talking. They are fundamentally in agreement on all the big questions.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Wow.. Extremely disappointing and pitiful book.. I could only withstand the first hour or so of reading before I had to give up on it... It's extremely one-sided and biased in favor of Obama and far left wing political ideology . In particular, I found the anti-white rhetoric disgusting and very concerning. Don't waste your time or money on this pathetic book. Respectfully submitted.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
I have carefully read this and Coates' prior book, Between the World and Me. Neither is well-written, and the author is wrong on his facts and interpretations. His awards, in my judgment, are more based on his political/race positions, than the merits of his writing.
Please Rate We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy
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