First-Year Read

First-Year Read for the Class of 2022

The First-Year READ is designed to encourage critical thinking, reading and writing among the newest members of the University community as well as spark conversation with faculty across disciplines.




This text, declared “required reading” by Toni Morrison, is widely used today as a first-year read in American colleges and universities. Between the World and Me is inspiring as it shows how education and travel become Coates’s way through the stigma, fear, and social oppression he experiences as a black man growing up with the threat of violence, renewed segregation, and the institutionalized lack of opportunity for people of color. Reminiscent of James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time (1963), Coates’s work is a timely and direct condemnation of the personal and social pain and tragic losses brought onto Americans through racist acts and a racist history that is perpetuated by people today who, as he says, “believe themselves to be white.” Written as a letter to his son, this text is intensely personal, asking the reader to begin a journey with the basic question of how much our lives can change for the better if we as a country face the truth of racism in American head on. Through an historical and personal discussion inspired by his revelatory intellectual and social experiences at Howard University and beyond we follow Coates as he develops a vision for Americans today, from his childhood in Baltimore to his travels with his family in Paris.

Critics write:

“Powerful . . . a searing meditation on what it means to be black in America today.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Brilliant . . . [Coates] is firing on all cylinders.” 
—The Washington Post

“Urgent, lyrical, and devastating . . . a new classic of our time.”

“A crucial book during this moment of generational awakening.”
—The New Yorker