Sylvia Kocses

We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehesi Coates (One World Publishing Co., 2017)

Editor’s Note: This summer, Readers’ Reviews is partnering with the Koinonia team to highlight books related to racial reconciliation and social justice. This review is the first in our series. We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, by Ta-Nehisi Coates (One World Publishing Co., 2017)

In 1967 during my freshman year in college, I had to read Walden by Henry Thoreau. As I studied, outlined, re-read and memorized passages of this book, Thoreau challenged me to examine my priorities, my values, and my cultural assumptions. I realized I didn't want to live a life of quiet desperation as a slave and prisoner of others’ expectations, nor find my purpose in the pursuit of material possessions. I was motivated to change by Thoreau’s thoughtful essays: Few books are that profound.

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates rises to that level. The book contains eight essays he wrote from 2008 to 2016 for Atlantic magazine on issues of race, historical injustice, white supremacy, and Barack Obama's presidency. Each original essay is introduced with a blog-like commentary about the election of Donald Trump.               

All 16 essays focus on the myriad of difficult issues facing our country today. "Why Do So Few Blacks Study the Civil War?" addresses the National Football League’s controversy over singing the national anthem. The fourth essay "How We Lost to the White Man") explains Black America’s historic intellectual divide between the "Twice as Good" mantra espoused by the African-American educator Booker T. Washington and the protest movement of Black Lives Matter today. The final essay (“Fear of a Black President”) is a critical analysis of the effectiveness and legacy of Barack Obama.

The author’s prose is lyrical, scholarly, poetic—and brutal. He is "the arsonist who burns with his pen, regardless," sing sings the rapper Whiteface Killah in “Daytona 500." You can't escape the heat this book generates. We will not all agree with the author’s views on reparations, immigration or the political policies of President Trump, but these topics need to be discussed.

Coates, an atheist, expresses a bleak picture of race relations today. "For most African Americans, white people exist either as a direct or an indirect force for bad in their lives. Biraciality is no shield against this; it often intensifies the problem."

As a believer in Jesus Christ and in the power of God to change hearts, I will remain hopeful. James 1:19 commands believers to "be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger." Civility, mutual respect and healthy debate can guide us in the hopes of finding compromise and solutions to our deep problems.

Learn more about the book:

The author’s website

A review of Eight Years on the black culture website The Root

An interview with the author on YouTube

Review of The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency by Randall Kennedy

Public Library/B&N/IndieBound/Amazon




Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline, MD and Jim Fay

Parenting with Love and Logic book Cover image

I thought parenting would be easy until I had my own children! 2 Timothy 4:2 reminded me to “correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” But too often I was angry and frustrated, exhausted by power struggles with those precious little gifts from God.

Now that I am a grandparent, I have another chance to parent more effectively. A friend recommended Parenting with Love and Logic. Psychologist Foster Cline and educator Jim Fay describe an approach that teaches children to think, decide, and live with consequences, in order to develop a sense of responsibility. Although the book references Christian ideas, it is written for a general audience, focusing on ages 1-10 yet relevant for any child.

The authors present two main concepts. First, children need thoughtful guidance and firm, enforceable limits, while reasonable real-world consequences do the teaching. Parents and caregivers can ask questions and offer choices within safe limits, allowing children to make the decision. For example, a 9-month-old can be given very simple choices: “Would you like pretzels or Goldfish for snack time?” Two choices are given that are acceptable options and can be enforced. If the child declines to choose, then the parent decides.

Second, the authors suggest that genuine empathy and sadness in response to mistakes are what drive lessons into children’s hearts – not anger, lectures, or punishment. In the snack example, if the child chooses pretzels and then wants something else, the parent can say, “It’s hard for me to stick with choices I make, too. You can continue eating your pretzels or resume playing with your toys.” Then enforce their choice.

Like any self-help book, Parenting with Love and Logic will not solve every problem or produce perfect children. But its examples and practical tools are helping me better enjoy my grandchildren and grow in confidence when caring for them. The authors remind us that God gave all humans freedom, including the opportunity to make mistakes. When Adam and Eve made the wrong choice, God allowed them to suffer the consequences. He loved them enough to let them make a decision and live with the results.

Note: When researching the authors, I discovered that Dr. Cline faced some past controversy with his recommendation of Attachment Therapy, or rage reduction therapy, when counseling caregivers of adopted or foster children. This book does not deal with that psychological theory.

Looking for more advice on parenting, especially through difficult seasons? This weekend, November 10th-11th, Stone Hill will be holding a forum on parenting teens. Learn more here.

Learn more about the book:

Book and ministry site

Video resources related to the book

Public library / B&N / IndieBound / Amazon

Subscribe to RSS - Sylvia Kocses