Notes of a Native Son

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Beacon Press, 1984 - LITERARY COLLECTIONS - 175 pages
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James Baldwin was among the most eloquent writers in mid-20th-century America to deal with black-white relations. His first published essays on the subject were initially collected in this penetrating and impassioned book, Held up to view are the failure of the "protest novel" from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Richard Wright; the falseness of the 1954 movie Carmen Jones, in which blacks play their roles as whites; the Harlem ghetto with its many churches doing "a fairly desperate emotional business," and its press seeking to emulate the white press. In the moving title essay, his father's funeral, set in the wreckage of a race riot, forces young Baldwin to examine the hostile relationship that existed between father and son. Finding America intolerable, Baldwin exiled himself in Europe for nearly ten years. He tells of the meeting of the American black with the African; of a harrowing Christmas sojourn in a Paris jail because of a friend's stolen bedsheet; and finally, the poignant and haunting essay of the first visit of a black person to a remote Swiss village, where he is treated as a living wonder and never becomes more than a stranger in the village.--Adapted from book jacket

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - nbornstein - LibraryThing

Hard to read but essential Baldwin is most relatable when he writes about his personal experiences in France, but every essay in this book is important. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - quondame - LibraryThing

At times Baldwin offers a visceral sense of the rage that vast injustice of American culture has sown in its adamant racism. At times he entertains with his criticisms of Native Son and Carmen Jones ... Read full review

Selected pages


Preface to the 1984 Edition
Autobiographical Notes
Everybodys Protest Novel
Many Thousands Gone
The Dark Is Light Enough
The Harlem Ghetto
Journey to Atlanta
Notes of a Native Son
Black Meets Brown
A Question of Identity
Equal in Paris
Stranger in the Village

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About the author (1984)

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.