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Concerns and Style of Jonathan Coleman

Jonathan Coleman is an accomplished American writer, editor, and narrator born in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Coleman’s works of nonfiction are critically acclaimed in the literary community, touching upon a broad range of topics. The main themes favored by the author seem to be related to human nature, justice, and societal relationships. Coleman wants his audience to learn about the complexity of moral issues in the modern age by examining true events. He uses real life as a way to make the reader question the motives and consequences of someone else’s actions. Walking a fine line between retelling events and weaving a compelling story, the author strives to make his audience see an event from a nuanced point of view. This essay seeks to examine the different aspects of Coleman’s writing, as well as to provide an opinion on his writing style.

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As an author that reports on true events, one has to collect as much information about each case as possible. Coleman’s preferred methods seem to be conducting interviews and quoting different concerned parties throughout his writing, as well as researching any books and publications touching upon similar topics to inform his own opinions. Such observation is evident by the collection of materials for one of his books, submitted to the archive of Wisconsin-Milwaukee university (Coleman, 2007). His heavy use of quotes can be seen in an excerpt from his latest book, “Crossing the Line” available on Amazon (Coleman, 2015). It seems to me that Coleman rarely uses his personal life as a point of comparison, opting to instead provide opinions of other people. This approach, in my opinion, makes the story feel less personal and offers the reader an opportunity to form their own opinions on any given matter.

Jonathan Coleman has a very nuanced writing style, making his readers feel engaged with the work after only a few sentences. He effectively uses poetic language to paint each scene, making every paragraph not only informative but pleasant to read. His descriptions of people are full of detail, providing the reader with background information that makes each character more complete like they have a life outside of the events of the book. In his own words, “I have an obligation as a writer to tell a story as interesting as possible, but with integrity and not inserting false drama…” (Theiss, 1989). For example, in his latest piece, Crossing the Line, Coleman provides us with this description of one of the main characters: “She was quiet and unassuming, humble, and close to her family, especially her younger brother. Her grandparents, who lived across the street, doted on her and called her “Pumpkin”.” (Coleman, 2015, p. 2). Most of the information in this passage is completely irrelevant to the incident discussed, but its inclusion makes the reader connect with the characters and the whole book.

While speaking about Coleman’s style, it is important to note his interests and beliefs, as they are one of the core components of any person’s writing. In an interview about one of his books, Coleman is noted for his fascination with human behavior, which is reflected in all of his works (“Race: ‘It’s a Human Problem’”). Such infatuation lies at the crux of all his books, seemingly urging him to shine a light on unusual situations with his writing skill. Something that also concerns him a lot is the topic of social and racial justice, as portrayed in his 1998 piece, “Long Way to Go: Black and White in America”. The book, looking at a large picture through the lens of one town, explores concepts of racism and privilege, forces the reader to confront a serious issue head-on (“Race: ‘It’s a Human Problem’”). While retelling events and painting his characters, Coleman offers a multitude of perspectives and opinions, the complexity of which makes the story seem less biased than it could have been, painting the issue of race in its true light.

The success of Jonathan Coleman’s books tells me that there is a reason why he is universally acclaimed. I think that Coleman’s work is rightfully regarded highly by critics and readers alike, it manages to both accurately capture real-life events and make one sympathize with people you never personally knew. His choice of words is careful and precise; the meanings being conveyed are clear. Coleman’s work, especially his book on race relations, makes me think about what sort of action I can personally take to improve the situation in my own community. I start to ponder what kind of approach would work best when tackling such complex issues, wondering when human society will finally solve the problems plaguing it for a very long time. On the other hand, it feels good knowing that people as a collective came all this way towards understanding each other better, knowing that we are still making an effort.

I think that most of my sentiments concerning Coleman’s work would be shared by the person reading them near the time they came out, though I must note some exceptions. His book “At Mother’s Request”, based on the Franklin Bradshaw murder, for example, might’ve been regarded in poor taste, taken as a way to capitalize on a fairly recent tragedy. “Long Way to Go: Black and White in America” was thought as a comprehensive look at race relations, I think it inspired many people my age to change their attitudes, seeing the issues of race confronted so directly, which tends to work really well. Finally, speaking about one of his newer books, “West by West”, I feel that it may expose young people to something that they never thought they could find interesting, using accounts of real people as a base to tell an engaging story, though I must admit not finding it to my taste.

References

  1. Coleman, J. (2007) Coleman, Jonathan. Papers. Web.
  2. Theiss T. (1989). Interview with Jonathan Coleman. The Christian Science Monitor. Web.
  3. Jonathan Coleman. Grove Atlantic. Web.
  4. The Washington Post. (1997). Race: ‘It’s a Human Problem’. Web.

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