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Notes of a Native Son (Beacon Paperback,) Paperback – July 9, 1984
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"He named for me the things you feel but couldn't utter. . . . Jimmy's essays articulated for the first time to white America what it meant to be American and a black American at the same time."—Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
"A straight-from-the-shoulder writer, writing about the troubled problems of this troubled earth with an illuminating intensity."—Langston Hughes, The New York Times Book Review
“Written with bitter clarity and uncommon grace.” —Time
About the Author
James Baldwin (1924–1987) was a novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic, and one of America's foremost writers. His essays, such as “Notes of a Native Son” (1955), explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-twentieth-century America. A Harlem, New York, native, he primarily made his home in the south of France.
His novels include Giovanni’s Room (1956), about a white American expatriate who must come to terms with his homosexuality, and Another Country (1962), about racial and gay sexual tensions among New York intellectuals. His inclusion of gay themes resulted in much savage criticism from the black community. Going to Meet the Man (1965) and Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone (1968) provided powerful descriptions of American racism. As an openly gay man, he became increasingly outspoken in condemning discrimination against lesbian and gay people.
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James Baldwin is an extraordinary writer.
Baldwin draws the reader in with personal accounts and the goings-on of his thought process. Long after reading, his words come to mind. I loved this and appreciate the nuances related with each essay building on the next. I can't recommend this enough.
The essay is beautifully written, artfully combining and complicating the different themes. I've used it regularly in my teaching, and regard it as one of the best pieces of twentieth-century American prose. While I'm not African American, the writing allows me at least partly to enter Baldwin's feelings about race. Equally moving for me, and I suspect for many readers, is the description of Baldwin's strained relationship to and eventual compassion for his father, and his attempts to overcome his own frustration and anger. This deeply honest and articulate essay and book is a must for anyone concerned with modern American writing and also seeking a deeper understanding of his or her own inner complexities.