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The Fire Next Time
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on May 2, 2016
Growing up as the daughter of white parents in the Deep South, while my parents did everything in their power to try and keep us from using racial slurs, there was so much racism imbedded in the area that it was nearly impossible to fight it. It ranged from the blatant to the subtle, and it stuck in ways that I will probably be discovering for the rest of my life. Baldwin touches upon the use of religion to control, and the belief that the white man is the marker to which the black man should aspire, and that is still very clear in the world... As black men and women are told that their natural hair should be tamed to make them more appropriate for the work place, that the vernacular of their homes and families is somehow uneducated, even as they are surrounded by people who code-switch from a redneck southern dialect or a tough talking New York slang at home, to proper grammar in the workplace. At the end of the day, no one should aspire to whiteness. Instead, all should aspire to be the best they can be of exactly who they are.

This book, brilliantly written, greatly rocked my way of thinking. James Baldwin's grasp of humanity is one of the most realistic I've ever seen. He sees it and tells it just as it is.
127 helpful votes
128 helpful votes
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on September 20, 2016
This is a book to read with a pen! My copy, brand new, and fresh from the mailbox now has underlining everywhere and notes filling the margins. The language is beautiful in this book and there is a lot of wisdom to gather. This is my first James Baldwin and I crave more!

The book consists of two letters, a short one written to a nephew and a longer one written to discuss his thoughts and feelings about race, religion, and life. This is the most beautiful description in the entire book. I cannot possibly think of a more exquisite way to word how James sees his brother and how we often see those we have watched grow up.

"Other people cannot see what I see whenever I look into your father’s face for behind your father’s face as it is today are all those other faces which were his. Let him laugh and I see a cellar your father does not remember and a house he does not remember and I hear in his present laughter his laughter as a child."

Baldwin starts his letter by informing his nephew on how black people can be destroyed if they believe what some white people think about them. He discusses a hidden message telling black people to settle for mediocrity rather than striving for excellence. Baldwin believes that black people need to know their history and where they came from so that there will be “no limit to where you can go.”

"…We, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it."
37 helpful votes
38 helpful votes
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on May 18, 2017
This book should be read by all Americans. And, it is extremely well written. I was not aware that James Baldwin was such a master of the English language. I really enjoyed reading this book, not just for the message, but just as much for the sheer pleasure of reading such well written English.
1 helpful vote
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on October 31, 2015
This is a classic. I revisit it every so often and have for years. I wanted it on my readers. I believe that if you have not read this you ought to and if you have read it in the past, you would profit from revisiting it in these troubled days.
3 helpful votes
4 helpful votes
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on June 24, 2017
Very powerful, incredibly well written. If you want to have some idea of what it's like growing up as an intellectual black man in the US, this will get you started.
1 helpful vote
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on May 16, 2016
In her book, "The New Jim Crow," Michelle Alexander quoted "The Fire Next Time," and went on to say that it was the most extraordinary book ever written. After reading it and taking notes, I can honestly say James Baldwin's book definitely earned that veneration. James Baldwin is an amazing wordsmith who so accurately describes, in the 1960's, the same power struggle situation we are seeing today in the United States! It is a must read for anyone wishing to understand the state of affairs between the power structure, white supremacy, and black people.
1 helpful vote
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on September 23, 2017
I am grateful to read the words of Mr. Baldwin. The truth of his words ring more true today than ever, with a racist demagogue in office and a nation waiting for the wisdom to heal. And we can only heal, acc to Mr Baldwin, when whites like myself are willing to accept the hard truths of a rigged system and a brutal history, which does harm to the "beneficiary" of a rigged system as well as those oppressed. A privilege to read such brilliant writing.
1 helpful vote
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on April 29, 2017
Baldwin's words are sharp and piercing and are just as pertinent today as they were when they were first published.
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on October 27, 2017
This was m first tim in a long time reading James Baldwin book. His writing is int new, his style captivating, his points and arguments riveting.
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on August 14, 2017
So much of what Baldwin comments on holds true today. We are not so very removed from our history that we have yet to learn all its lessons. I just got a little more woke.
1 helpful vote
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