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

Author and essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates with correspondent Martha Teichner.

CBS News

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 doesn't want people to simply read the books; he wants them to be moved by them, he tells 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 don't 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 U.S., 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 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 in 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."

The Emmy Award-winning "CBS Sunday Morning," hosted by Jane Pauley, is broadcast on CBS Sundays beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET. Executive producer is Rand Morrison.

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