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Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man Paperback


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Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man + Life Stories: Profiles from The New Yorker (Modern Library Paperbacks)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 3, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679776664
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679776666
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #954,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

All but one originally published in the New Yorker, these profiles work together to create a striking collective biography of the 20th-century African-American male in all his diversity. Figures as different as Harry Belafonte and Colin Powell get equally perceptive treatment, though the essays on writer Albert Murray and literary critic Anatole Broyard (who passed for white) are particularly fine. Henry Louis Gates's pungent introduction bolsters his stature as our preeminent black intellectual, unapologetically immersed in race as a crucial element in American social discourse. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Gates, the head of Harvard's Afro-American studies department, is not only the nation's most prominent black scholar. As the author of the widely praised Colored People and as an essayist, he has become a leading interpreter of "the perplexities of race and gender." Originally published in the New Yorker, these deft, absorbing reports on prominent black men-from literary critic Albert Murray to choreographer Bill T. Jones and singer/activist Harry Belafonte-are enlivened by Gates's own expertise and engagement. He likens Colin Powell to bootstrap philosopher Booker T. Washington and deconstructs the racial iconography that makes Powell unthreatening to whites. Though on record as a critic of Louis Farrakhan, a visit to the Nation of Islam leader reminds Gates that he, like most African Americans, "feel[s] astonishingly vulnerable to charges of inauthenticity." He finds Farrakhan alternately charming and chilling yet concludes that the scariest thing is Farrakhan's (and America's) lack of true vision to transform black rage. In the title essay, on black responses to the O.J. Simpson trial, Gates acknowledges his outrage was mingled with relief, and he teases out the mixed opinions of other prominent blacks. The book's closing essay, is the most surprising in its examination of how New York Times literary critic Anatole Broyard passed as a white man and how that passing, by which Broyard aimed to liberate himself from the shackles of identity, ultimately hindered his writing. Gates, on the other hand, suffers no such block. He offers here fine magazine journalism, substantial portraits that are great fun to read. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Excellent book that everyone should read, and just as fresh today as when it was written.
Emma Summer
Like an exquisite and rare gourmet meal for the mind, one wants these profiles never to end for the knowledge and reality that they impart.
Emma Woodhouse
Each of their lives have distinct differences, but it is also interesting to find the areas where they overlap.
Ryan G Jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Leon M. Bodevin on February 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
Henry Louis Gates must have some magical ability to transcribe someone's personality onto the printed page. I was amazed at the variety of personalities Gates wrote about and how accurately Gates seemed to portray them. My favorites were Anatole Broyard and Colin Powell, but every essay is compelling. Perhaps what I enjoyed most is that Gates had the bravery to write about controversial subjects (like Louis Farrakhan and O.J. Simpson, though an entire essay was not dedicated to the latter). I recommend this book highly. Fans of this book would also enjoy Cornel West's Race Matters.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ryan G Jones on February 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. masterfully profiles eight black men in this collection of his New Yorker essays. He writes in a bluesy, artistic style and has the ability to get quotes from these men that any other journalist would fail to do. The men intimately discuss the tragedies and successes of their lives. The stories of these men details their ascent and depicts the world around them. Gates daringly portrays O.J. Simpson and the infamous trial and Louis Farrakhan, the outspoken leader of the nation of Islam. The other men profiled are James Baldwin, Albert Murray, Bill T. Jones, Colin Powell, Harry Belafonte, and Anatole Broyard. Each of their lives have distinct differences, but it is also interesting to find the areas where they overlap.
The portraits of Powell and Farrakhan stand out the most to me as Gates sheds light on the stories behind the men that we rarely see. I recommend this book for its intriguing stories, dynamic language, and true concepts of what it means to be a black man in America.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Charlie Brown (Sofatso@aol.com) on June 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
One of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s stated goals is to expose the constant hovering shadow of racial identity that, unbidden and unspoken, lives beside us. In that venture he succeeds and, I suspect, most poignantly for Negroes. Yet as illuminating and cathartic as this book might be for the black psyche, it may be more so its white counterpart.
Daily news and live encounters too often remind us, or me anyway, of the unsavory and resistant pathologies that blight our black communities, so that the actual potential of an entire people can seem in doubt. (Is it too much to ask that reality matches our desperately hopeful cant?) But Gates's talent alone refutes this notion; his prose flows so smoothly and cuts so deftly that I'd do the shopping and pay the bill, just to read his grocery list. And if Gates alone doesn't accomplish that, then the seven complex lives he splays on his pages certainly do.
This happens not because of some strained attempt to rehabilitate an image. Rather, because he examines his subjects like the diamonds that they are, and unflinchingly rotates them to reveal both superb facets and fatal flaws wherever they arise. In doing so, any nagging questions of ability seem ridiculous, leaving cultural impediments as the villain in a national tragedy. Black excellence is the ultimate rejoinder.
I grabbed this collection in a rush at the bookstore, and only later did I realize that I had read two of the chapters in The New Yorker. Most (all?) of them were first published there. Still, I don't regret it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Emma Summer on January 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Excellent book that everyone should read, and just as fresh today as when it was written. Gates is a fabulous and engaging writer, his subjects, love them or hate them, are infinitely fascinating. I didn't want it to end and would love another version.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Emma Woodhouse on December 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
Gates is a master of his craft; his writing is original, insightful and is of the whole cloth-- weaving visual images with literary allusions and references to the person that render all of what we might rightly know of a visible self. The portraits are intellectually rich and intellectually satisfying. His rendition of the crack in Jesse Jackson's reaction to Colin Powell-- which only comes out in private, is absolutely magical and priceless for the emotional nuance it conveys (in a loving and hilarious style). Like an exquisite and rare gourmet meal for the mind, one wants these profiles never to end for the knowledge and reality that they impart.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Karen A. Culver on January 9, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book will challenge you to look at men who have been instumental politically and educationally in America. You may not close the book liking them all and probably won't agree with everything they said or did, but you will go away with more knowledge and understanding of their positions.
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