Paul Coates was an enigmatic god to his sons: a Vietnam vet who rolled with the Black Panthers, an old-school disciplinarian and new-age believer in free love, an autodidact who launched a publishing company in his basement dedicated to telling the true history of African civilization. Most of all, he was a wily tactician whose mission was to carry his sons across the shoals of inner-city adolescenceand through the collapsing civilization of Baltimore in the Age of Crackand into the safe arms of Howard University, where he worked so his children could attend for free. Among his brood of seven, his main challenges were Ta-Nehisi, spacey and sensitive and almost comically miscalibrated for his environment, and Big Bill, charismatic and all too ready for the challenges of the streets. The Beautiful Struggle follows their divergent paths through this turbulent period, and their fathers steadfast effortsassisted by mothers, teachers, and a body of myths, histories, and rituals conjured from the past to meet the need of a troubled presentto keep them whole in a world that seemed bent on their destruction.
With remarkable ability to reimagine both the lost world of his fathers generation and the terrors and wonders of his own youth, Coates offers readers a small and beautiful epic about boys trying to become men in black America and beyond.
Hardcover, 227 pps, 2008.