The Envy of the World

With The Envy of the World, Cose demonstrates that he is also an author of extraordinary empathy and pragmatism, delivering the most lucid, personal, and acclaimed book of his career.

The Envy of the World
details, with the aid of real-world anecdotes, the particular ways black men come to internalize the disdain and fear directed at them by American society. Even as he frankly contends with such dire issues as drug abuse, incarceration, criminal activity, misogyny, and chronic economic inequality, Cose also considers the significance of the progress that has been made, particularly in recent decades. Featuring the comments and experiences of men who represent the vast spectrum of black experience, from the first African-American to head a Fortune 500 company and the first black grandmaster of chess, to unknown drug dealers and jailed youths, The Envy of the World challenges us in careful, crystalline prose to rethink who we are and what we’ve become as a society

Contents of The Envy of the World

Introduction: A Group Apart

1. A Song of Celebration

2. Keeping It Real

3. Too Cool for School

4. If We Don’t Belong in Prison, Why Can’t We Stay Out?

5. Of Relationships, Fatherhood, and Black Men

6. Twelve Things You Must Know to Survive and Thrive in America

“I mean, I don’t know what the fuss is about. I mean, everything in the world loves you. White men love you. They spend so much time worrying about your penis they forget their own…And white women? They chase you all to every corner of the earth, feel for you under every bed. Colored women worry themselves into bad health just trying to hang on to your cuffs. Even little children–white and black, boys and girls–spend all their childhood eating their hearts out `cause they think you don’t love them. And if that ain’t enough, you love yourselves. Nothing in the world loves a black man more than another black man. It looks to me like you the envy of the world.”

–From Sula, a novel by Toni Morrison

Here’s what they are saying about Envy of the World…

“Envy of the World will stimulate, provoke and jolt the reader loose from previously held misconceptions on the American race issue. A must read book for the new millennium. ”

–Claude Brown, author of Manchild in the Promised Land

“Alternating incisive interviews with revelatory insights, Premier Journalist Ellis Cose portrays with fearsome candor and yet hopeful encouragement the paradoxical phenomenon in which black men are both feared and admired, shunned and emulated, loved and despised, in this, the land of their birth. The Envy of the World will enlighten all readers and is an essential text for every young, black male.”

–Derrick Bell, author of Faces at the Bottom of the Well and The Permanence of Racism

“Written in his classic interview style, Mr. Cose offers crucial insight into the state of black men at the turn of the millennium. His conversations with brothers from across the country present a compelling examination of the frustrations that we feel throughout our lives living in America. Read this book and let it become your survival guide!”

–Kenneth Meeks, author of Driving While Black

“Examining a wide range of cultural artifacts…and never avoiding hard questions such as black-on-black crime and interracial sex, Cose charts both an urgently argued history of black masculinity and a moving and nuanced snapshot of where it is now.”


“A slender volume with a substantial and significant message.”


“Cose, a gifted, rhapsodic essayist, is a columnist and contributing editor for Newsweek who grew up on Chicago’s West Side. In “The Envy of the World,” Cose, who is black, writes with the urgency of a man who is single-handedly trying to save the race…. “The Envy of the World,” a title taken from a passage in Toni Morrison’s novel “Sula,” provides Cose’s hypothetical charges with a veritable tool kit for approaching the world, delivered with the facility of a seasoned writer. But young black males are not his only intended audience. “The Envy of the World” speaks to the rest of us as well.”

–Chicago Tribune

“Cose’s lucid, eloquent and deeply personal book goes a long way toward enlightening us about the pitfalls and possibilities of black male life.Cose doesn’t shrink from telling the truth about what our country has done to make black men’s lives a living hell, but he refuses to ignore the things we’ve done to make the fire hotter. Even more important, his sharp analysis and judicious insight fuel the hope that more black men will survive and flourish.”

–Washington Post