Ta-Nehisi Coates wants readers to be “haunted” by his work

Ta-Nehisi Coates wants readers to be “haunted” by his work

Author and essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates with correspondent Martha Teichner.
Critically-acclaimed author Ta-Nehisi Coates has earned a huge following, along with several prestigious awards, for his thought-provoking books dealing with race. He does not want people to simply read the books; Martha Teichner in an interview for CBS ‘”Sunday Morning,” to be broadcast November 5.

“I try to write in a way that makes people feel things,” Coates tells Teichner. “I do not want them to read what I’m writing and say, ‘I think that’s right’ and agree with me. I want them to read something and then walk away and be haunted by it.”

Coates’ latest book, “We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy,” became an instant bestseller. And “Between the World and Me,” a letter to his son about the hazards of being a black male in the US, won the National Book Award in 2015. That same year, he was awarded a so-called MacArthur “genius grant. ”

Coates tells Teichner his initial audience is himself. “Secondly, it’s probably a young African-American kids who came up like me.”

He grew up in Baltimore, surrounded by both violence and books. His father, Paul Coates, a one-time Black Panther, published books by forgotten African-American writers from an office in his basement and also worked as a research librarian at Howard University. Ta-Nehisi Coates went on to study there, and spent a lot of time in the library. Today, his writing is required or recommended reading at least 400 schools and colleges.

“My job is to look out on that world that I write about and be as honest as I possibly can about that world,” he tells Teichner. “If that’s optimistic and uplifting, OK. If it’s not, OK.”