- Series: Perennial Classics (Tandem Library)
- School & Library Binding
- Publisher: Topeka Bindery (December 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0808510525
- ISBN-13: 978-0808510529
- Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 460 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,440,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth (Perennial Classics (Tandem Library)) School & Library Binding – December, 2003
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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.
About the Author
Richard Wright won international renown for his powerful and visceral depiction of the black experience. He stands today alongside such African-American luminaries as Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison, and two of his novels, Native Son and Black Boy, are required reading in high schools and colleges across the nation. He died in 1960. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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"Black Boy" is an autobiography and I think that that is why I found it so powerful. Just to read, first person, how it was to grow up as a Black male in the South during the 10's and 20's is riveting. I know, academically and cognitively that slavery existed as did the Jim Crow era--but to read first hand accounts of the physical, mental, economical, social and psychological torment that many Blacks faced--that's another thing entirely.
Richard Wright writes openly about his family life and his extra-family life in Mississippi. He faced daily abuses from both, his near-fanatically religious family as well as the Whites he had to work for. But more than the physical and verbal abuses that Richard detailed, I found myself as much bothered by the transformation he had to make whenever confronting White people. He was not allowed to be a man and therefore act like one, he was always expected to be a boy. Even the job titles were "cleaning boy", "elevator boy", or just simply "boy for..." when they were hiring adults with families. Like a method actor, he would have to transmogrify into a slumped shouldered, downcast, foot-shuffling, speech deficient "boy". He could not stand up straight like a man, or look another in the eyes, or speak like a man, or even display any emotions beyond stupid gaiety, fear, or humility.
I found out quickly that Richard was not constructed for that place or that era--that's why he journeyed North. Whereas other Black folks were able to seamlessly and automatically turn on the "Black Boy" act and compartmentalize that part of their life; Richard found himself hard pressed to do so--which was a problem because his life depended upon it.
I was enthralled by the book. This particular copy has the addition of his life in Chicago which used to be printed as a separate book. Part two of this published edition deals with Richard as an adult in Chicago and being a part of the Communist Party. Although not as compelling, it was an interesting read into how the Communist Party could be so appealing to Blacks at that time. This book is a real page turner and a must read for a real historical reference to a dark era in American history.
Firstly people who write a memoir about their own life should have done something important, or witnessed something most havent. In Neil Genzlinger’s well thought article on nytimes.com he states “There was a time when you had to earn the right to draft a memoir, by accomplishing something noteworthy or having an extremely unusual experience being such a brilliant writer that you could turn a relatively ordinary occurrence into a snapshot of a broader historical movement.” Black Boy fits this description well over Richard’s life he hasn't witnessed anything particularly huge for his time, but today these stories of racial violence, and prejudice sound foreign to most people.
Another important component of a good memoir is the author doesn't use the memoir for personal benefit. A memoir should pass on the things that the author learned to the reader. If the author throws himself a pity party or the only goal of the book in the writer's mind is to make profit it should not be considered a memoir and at the very best a bad one. Once again from Neil Genzlinger article “ No one wants to relive your misery. Say you get stuck under a rock and have to cut off your own arm to escape. If, as you’re using your remaining hand to write a memoir about the experience, your only purpose is doing so is to make readers feel the blade and scream in pain you should stop. You're a sadist not a memoirist.” Richard Wright’s story is completely compliant for these rules of a memoir. During the book you feel bad for Richard after one after another unfortunate things happen to him. You don't pity him. There is no extreme exaggeration of bad events that would make the reader feel pitty.
The third and possibly most important part of a memoirs classification and level of skill is whether the book was exaggerated. Although admittedly when writing a memoir it can be difficult to remember the conversations and exact descriptions of an event. Although in some cases where the story can be changed slightly to put a certain idea into the spotlight, although this enters a grey area of genera. It is important that a memoir is close to the truth, almost crucial, because a memoir is the story of someone’s life. If too much is changed the writing becomes fiction. Wright’s book may be guilty to exaggeration in some places were some events are very hard to believe, and it can be assumed that they were changed slightly or beefed up to exaggerate something in his mind at the time.
All in all Black Boy is a fantastic memoir, I personally enjoyed the book a lot and would suggest the book to everyone. It provides an interesting story, and a lot to learn.
Most recent customer reviews
Both halves oh the book, not just the first half focused on Wright's youth.