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Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth Paperback – March 27, 2007

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Editorial Reviews


Autobiography by Richard Wright, published in 1945 and considered to be one of his finest works. The book is sometimes considered a fictionalized autobiography or an autobiographical novel because of its use of novelistic techniques. Black Boy describes vividly Wright's often harsh, hardscrabble boyhood and youth in rural Mississippi and in Memphis, Tenn. When the work was first published, many white critics viewed Black Boy primarily as an attack on racist Southern white society. From the 1960s the work came to be understood as the story of Wright's coming of age and development as a writer whose race, though a primary component of his life, was but one of many that formed him as an artist. --The Merriam-Webster Encylopedia of Literature --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

Richard Wright grew up in the woods of Mississippi amid poverty, hunger, fear, and hatred. He lied, stole, and raged at those around him; at six he was a "drunkard," hanging about in taverns. Surly, brutal, cold, suspicious, and self-pitying, he was surrounded on one side by whites who were either indifferent to him, pitying, or cruel, and on the other by blacks who resented anyone trying to rise above the common lot. Black Boy is Richard Wright's powerful account of his journey from innocence to experience in the Jim Crow South. It is at once an unashamed confession and a profound indictment—a poignant and disturbing record of social injustice and human suffering. --This text refers to the Unbound edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics; Anv edition (March 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061130249
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061130243
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (369 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 91 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
Like Richard Wright, I spent my teenage years reading only "classic" novels and therefore skipped over "Black Boy", which I assumed wouldn't be substantive enough for my tastes. Now that I've read it years later, I'm regretful that this stunning memoir wasn't a part of my consciousness when I was younger.
This is a story of racial dissonance-- and how horrifying it is to see the lengths that whites would go to to abuse and humiliate emancipated blacks!-- but it is also a story of a brilliant young man whose voice crosses racial bounds. I could identify with him completely, and I have little patience with those reviewers who've described him as "whiny" or "negative" or "hateful." I know what it feels like to grow up in a rural town and have people try to break you for having aspirations. I know what it's like to "feel and cultivate feelings" while others strive for "the trivial material prizes of American life," and I know that justifiable distrustfulness and resentment are not to be confused with hate.Most importantly, I know what it feels like to try to escape one's oppressive roots. The pain in this story was so real for me that I cried my way through many, many passages.
"Black Boy" should come as a revelation to black persons, white persons (like myself), and anyone who has ever hungered for their life to mean something more.
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49 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on November 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
Richard Wright is considered by many to be one of the premier Black American writers of the 20th century. He wrote a long string of books and essays before his death in 1960. Wright even wrote thousands of haiku poems and some plays. His best-known novel is probably "Native Son," a novel that takes a close look at Black America and it's relation to the penal system. Wright overcame huge obstacles to take a place among the great writers of his day, although I suspect he is more appreciated these days, when minority writers are all the rage. This book, aptly subtitled "American Hunger," is Wright's account of his tumultuous upbringing in the Jim Crow American South and his subsequent exodus to Chicago. The "Hunger" refers to both a physical hunger of poverty and a mental hunger for knowledge.
Most of the book concentrates on Wright's troubled childhood. His father abandoned the family at a young age, and for most of his youth Wright was bandied about amongst his frail mother, his psycho-religious grandmother, and a string of uncles and aunts. Wright rarely attended school, and when he did, he almost never stayed for more than two years in a row. His main occupation was trying to find work to feed his family and save for his trip to the North. Along the way Wright gives us many interesting stories about his youth and about the American South. Wright drank liquor heavily before he was seven, lived in a whorehouse, and even spent time in an orphanage. Despite all of these obstacles, Wright still managed to teach himself how to read and write. He was reading Sinclair Lewis and Theodore Dreiser in a time when to do so could spell disaster for a
Black man. His accounts of the discrimination he encountered while working in the South are pretty disturbing.
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45 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Dera R Williams VINE VOICE on April 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
In my quest to either reread or read the first time some of the timeless classics by African American writers this year, I tried to avoid reading this one. I just wasn't up to reading about another downtrodden, poverty-stricken, living in the ghetto story. But it is more than that. This masterpiece is a commentary on a way of life in the early part of the 1900s, a life that many African Americans endured and survived coming through victorious.
Richard Wright recalls his poverty-stricken childhood, abandoned by a father, and physically abused and misunderstood by the adults in his life. Uncomfortable among his own people, he didn't fit in with the lifestyle of the blacks in his life nor could he abide the Jim Crow shuffling he had to do with whites. He found he could not compromise his values and knew he had to leave the south. The poverty was startling yet he chose to go back to live with his mother and grandmother when he could have stayed with an uncle where there was plenty of food.
With only an nine grade education, he was self-taught, reading and disciplining himself to pursue what he wanted most, to write. And write he did. He wrote stories and had them published when he was still in school and when he moved to Chicago he wrote for the Communist Party. With the Party, Wright thought he had found his niche, but again, he was the odd man out never conforming to their ideals.
As I read I kept saying, this is enough already. The poverty, the abuse, the Jim Crow and racism was a wearing me down. But this was a man who rose above his circumstances to have a life that was worth pursuing and living. I am intrigued by this man and his life and look forward to reading his most recent biography.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By D. Joseph Lane on December 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
Black Metropolis is perhaps the founding document of African-American studies, a classic work of sociology that still resonates today. It is a paradigmatic expression of the Chicago School of sociology, however, a school that today stands in some disrepute, at least in some circles. Indirectly, it was the target of James Baldwin's famous attack on Richard Wright in his essay, Everybody's Protest Novel. The claim of the criticism has been that the Chicago School, due to its insistance upon using a "scientific approach", merely reproduces the very terms under which African-Americans have been oppressed--a claim that has proceeded under the warrant of European intellectuals such as Theodor Adorno. Still, Black Metropolis is a landmark study, and, unfortunately, many if not most of its observations and conclusions remain true today, and in fact it could be argued that conditions in the Black Belt of Chicago have gotten worse, not better, since 1945, the year of Black Metropolis' publication--which lends a certain credence to the criticisms mentioned above, though perhaps it should be qualified by saying that they are not so much criticisms of the Chicago School as they are criticisms of American society. Since then, as we know, we have witnessed a great shift in American public opinion away from what some consider to be the excesses of those days; so much so, in fact, that the work of Black Metropolis may again be regarded as a profoundly useful book. Embodying American liberalism as it does--which counted as a grave sin thirty years ago--Black Metropolis may possibly be due for a fresh look.
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