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Showing 1-10 of 230 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 470 reviews
on February 11, 2015
Richard Wright excellently exposes the stark racial divisions of the 1930s Chicago Black Belt in his period piece Native Son. Following the misfortune of the young protagonist Bigger Thomas, Wright seeks to convey a coming of age initiated by tragic conflict. Not only is the reader enveloped by racial conflict behind the words of Wright, but by general conflict between all men. Through this composition, Wright aims to reveal the darkness often covered up during the period of writing, seen through the eyes of the racially suppressed.

The best thing one can take away from this story is an appreciation for empathy and feelings other than our own. Though it is easy to jump to the conclusion that Bigger is an evil man, if you take the time to think and really read between the lines you actually can actively understand the actions which he takes throughout the story and feel a connection with him until the very end. This gift of empathy is would I would argue is Wright’s most amazing result from this story. All in all there is a lot to be learned from reading Native Son and not only does it teach about a historical period of time, but it wraps the piece of historical fiction nicely into a novel, a medium accessible to a wide variety of audiences.

I highly recommend this thrilling expose.
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on February 24, 2015
This book is a great book that shows how hard prejudiced was back in the day before civil rights. This story has a few eye opening and a bit graphic twists but expresses a great deal of oppression. The story has a great build and has an ending where enlightenment is reached. I think that this book should be read with an open mind and the ability to put yourself in someone elseʻs shoes to think what they are thinking. also it should be remembered while reading this book that skin color made a great deal in a persons life and if you were not white you were treated differently and sometimes even disrespected.
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on March 21, 2015
This classic cautionary tale is a tense, graphic read that gives insights into the race issue in the US in the 1930s and the damage it does to both whites and blacks. It also gives important context to the ongoing race issues in that country: a historically toxic, inequitable, violent and oppressive society produces toxic, paranoid, violent people, whatever the basis for the oppression, be it race, class, ethnicity, religion or anything else.

Quite apart from all the sociological and psychological insights, the novel itself is a gripping ride that just does not let up on the tension until the court scene, the long speeches and the epiphanies of the protagonist near the end that slow things down somewhat.

Overall, a worthy read.
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on March 11, 2014
Obviously a momentous book in history for black authors. Writing style is easily digestible and not obtuse in any way; it's very well written. The story and imagery are also good. I imagine that the persecution the protaganist goes through is familiar to many people during that time, and some might argue during this time as well.

The only reason I knocked off a star is that I find it painful to enjoy any story (book, show, movie, game) that sets up a very dramatic misunderstanding that will lead to a lot of pain and suffering, like a train crash happening in slow motion. You know what's coming very early on, and ultimately you pay for the protagist's mistake. I understand that that is the whole point of this story, but that doesn't make it any easier to swallow. This happens far too often in modern story telling (I know this was published in 1940), especially in daily television shows, where there would essentially be no episode if not for some fake drama inserted to string the viewer along. Few and far between are the stories that are still enticing without the forced, easily avoidable misunderstanding that leads to everything going wrong.

Again, it's a good book, and worth the read. In the end though there are many other good (better?) books to read (imho).
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on May 18, 2016
More than a decade ago, I was supposed to read this novel for an African American Lit course. After Bigger's incident with Mary, I stopped reading the text. I was livid! I thought, why would Richard Wright do such a thing?! There was just no hope for Bigger after that. My coworker invited me to read it this year, and I can appreciate the text now. I understand that a point is being made about the dire economic and racial landscape of the early 20th century. That said, Max's speech ran 35 screens on my Kindle. I had to take a break. I think that with better editing the novel could have been better, but it's point is still clear. Decades later, we can still connect to it and evaluate ourselves in its pages.
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on February 28, 2016
A well-written account of a black youth in 1940's Chicago. This young man grew up oppressed by the arrogance and fear of a white majority who has set the rules whereby blacks must 'live', if that's what the struggle to survive can be called. He's a protagonist that is difficult to accept in that role in this novel. For me, reading this book was very uncomfortable, as it allowed me to feel what this character feels. I spent 14 years in South Carolina, where the spirit of Jim Crow still survives. That was hard enough. This book brought it home to me just how difficult it was to live in the white society of that era. Somehow, by the end of the book, I found myself wanting a different outcome for Bigger. I will read other offerings from this author.
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on August 4, 2014
It's a masterpiece and one fixed in time and place. Wright was a communist, which was a utopian experiment with it's own horrible outcome. I was glad to read of the generalizations towards oppressed people at large that he had come to in the essay at the end. Racism is still with us but not like in Chicago in the 30s. Bigger Thomas had one of many reactions to his life within the oppression of his people. He is a study in the complicated human condition. Wright comes close to making him a hero or maybe a justified victim. I wanted nobility. Wright grants none in the South Side of Chicago. There are other, more redemptive stories coming from that very place. Wright condemns them in his collectivist orthodoxy. Classism had two sides. Neither is right. But the reader will never forget Bigger Thomas. I won't either.
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on July 15, 2016
There's a lot that's good about this book. It is important in a historical sense and deserves to be read. But there are two major issues, and they've already been recognised by plenty of people. First, the female characters are all weak, two dimensional and essentially low value. It verges on a low-grade misogyny, given how vacant and insubstantial the female characters are - they are generally vehicles to be despised or killed. Second the prose is clunky and the plot machinations heavy-handed.

Which is not to say it shouldn't be read. But it should be approached as something to be educated by more than enjoyed.
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on May 30, 2017
Wright's work uncovers a multitude of issues that black men deal with on a psychological, cultural, and political basis. Although this work was written in 1940, the issues of inner turmoil of feeling alienated and a criminal on the basis of having dark skin is still relevant. The reader will feel certain empathy towards Bigger throughout this novel, even though the choices he makes are dark and undeniably wrong.

Native Son is a long one, but worth your time!
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on January 27, 2013
This 20th century story of desperation, survival, and redemption focuses on one man trying to survive, and find hope, in a world that does not recognize him as an individual. Every decision he makes seems to be the wrong decision. Ironically, he feels most empowered as a human by a single, tragic action that sets the rest of his life on a path to the inevitable end.

Within this story, Mr. Wright weaves connected characters together, describing how weakness, prejudice, and survival are affected by education, opportunity, class, and economics. People and events come together like a multi-car pileup that brings destruction and collateral damage to everyone involved.

In the end, can the peace and hope that one man finds for himself ever extend to his family, community, and country? Can we, individually and collectively, in the 21st century, understand Mr. Wright's warning - every person carries prejudice within themselves. Struggle by well-meaning people to overcome prejudice may bring change to governments, but it takes an understanding of the prejudice each of us carries in our own heart -and the knowledge that every person carries prejudice within them - to move past those prejudices and bring strength to our relationships with each other.

In addition to the selected group reading, a single member of our bookclub selects a 'banned book' to read and summarize into a brief book report. Native Son was the book report for January 2013.
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