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About James Baldwin
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.
Photo by Allan warren (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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"Basically the finest essay I’ve ever read. . . . Baldwin refused to hold anyone’s hand. He was both direct and beautiful all at once. He did not seem to write to convince you. He wrote beyond you.” —Ta-Nehisi Coates
At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin's early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document from the iconic author of If Beale Street Could Talk and Go Tell It on the Mountain. It consists of two "letters," written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism. Described by The New York Times Book Review as "sermon, ultimatum, confession, deposition, testament, and chronicle...all presented in searing, brilliant prose," The Fire Next Time stands as a classic of literature.
In the 1950s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality.
David is a young American expatriate who has just proposed marriage to his girlfriend, Hella. While she is away on a trip, David meets a bartender named Giovanni to whom he is drawn in spite of himself. Soon the two are spending the night in Giovanni’s curtainless room, which he keeps dark to protect their privacy. But Hella’s return to Paris brings the affair to a crisis, one that rapidly spirals into tragedy.
David struggles for self-knowledge during one long, dark night—“the night which is leading me to the most terrible morning of my life.” With a sharp, probing imagination, James Baldwin's now-classic narrative delves into the mystery of loving and creates a deeply moving story of death and passion that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.
With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power, and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin tells the story of the stepson of the minister of a storefront Pentecostal church in Harlem one Saturday in March of 1935. Originally published in 1953, Baldwin said of his first novel, "Mountain is the book I had to write if I was ever going to write anything else."
“With vivid imagery, with lavish attention to details ... [a] feverish story.” —The New York Times
Written during the 1940s and early 1950s, when Baldwin was only in his twenties, the essays collected in Notes of a Native Son capture a view of black life and black thought at the dawn of the civil rights movement and as the movement slowly gained strength through the words of one of the most captivating essayists and foremost intellectuals of that era. Writing as an artist, activist, and social critic, Baldwin probes the complex condition of being black in America. With a keen eye, he examines everything from the significance of the protest novel to the motives and circumstances of the many black expatriates of the time, from his home in “The Harlem Ghetto” to a sobering “Journey to Atlanta.”
Notes of a Native Son inaugurated Baldwin as one of the leading interpreters of the dramatic social changes erupting in the United States in the twentieth century, and many of his observations have proven almost prophetic. His criticism on topics such as the paternalism of white progressives or on his own friend Richard Wright’s work is pointed and unabashed. He was also one of the few writing on race at the time who addressed the issue with a powerful mixture of outrage at the gross physical and political violence against black citizens and measured understanding of their oppressors, which helped awaken a white audience to the injustices under their noses. Naturally, this combination of brazen criticism and unconventional empathy for white readers won Baldwin as much condemnation as praise.
Notes is the book that established Baldwin’s voice as a social critic, and it remains one of his most admired works. The essays collected here create a cohesive sketch of black America and reveal an intimate portrait of Baldwin’s own search for identity as an artist, as a black man, and as an American.
Personal and prophetic, these essays uncover what it means to live in a racist American society with insights that feel as fresh today as they did over the 4 decades in which he composed them. Longtime Baldwin fans and especially those just discovering his genius will appreciate this essential collection of his great nonfiction writing, available for the first time in affordable paperback. Along with 46 additional pieces, it includes the full text of dozens of famous essays from such books as:
• Notes of a Native Son
• Nobody Knows My Name
• The Fire Next Time
• No Name in the Street
• The Devil Finds Work
This collection provides the perfect entrée into Baldwin’s prescient commentary on race, sexuality, and identity in an unjust American society.
In this honest and stunning novel that inspired the award-winning major motion picture of the same name, James Baldwin has given America a moving story of love in the face of injustice.
"A major work of Black American fiction." –The New Republic
Told through the eyes of Tish, a nineteen-year-old girl, in love with Fonny, a young sculptor who is the father of her child, Baldwin’s story mixes the sweet and the sad. Tish and Fonny have pledged to get married, but Fonny is falsely accused of a terrible crime and imprisoned. Their families set out to clear his name, and as they face an uncertain future, the young lovers experience a kaleidoscope of emotions–affection, despair, and hope. In a love story that evokes the blues, where passion and sadness are inevitably intertwined, Baldwin has created two characters so alive and profoundly realized that they are unforgettably ingrained in the American psyche.
"Brilliantly and fiercely told." —The New York Times
Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read
In his final years, Baldwin envisioned a book about his three assassinated friends, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. His deeply personal notes for the project had never been published before acclaimed filmmaker Raoul Peck mined Baldwin’s oeuvre to compose his stunning documentary film I Am Not Your Negro.
Peck weaves these texts together, brilliantly imagining the book that Baldwin never wrote with selected published and unpublished passages, essays, letters, notes, and interviews that are every bit as incisive and pertinent now as they have ever been. Peck’s film uses them to jump through time, juxtaposing Baldwin’s private words with his public statements, in a blazing examination of the tragic history of race in America.
This edition contains more than 40 black-and-white images from the film.
Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary
An extraordinary history of the turbulent sixties and early seventies that displays James Baldwin's fury and despair more deeply than any of his other works, and powerfully speaks to contemporary conversations around racism.
"It contains truth that cannot be denied.” — The Atlantic Monthly
In this stunningly personal document, James Baldwin remembers in vivid details the Harlem childhood that shaped his early conciousness and the later events that scored his heart with pain—the murders of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, his sojourns in Europe and in Hollywood, and his retum to the American South to confront a violent America face-to-face.
At the height of his theatrical career, the actor Leo Proudhammer is nearly felled by a heart attack. As he hovers between life and death, Baldwin shows the choices that have made him enviably famous and terrifyingly vulnerable.
For between Leo's childhood on the streets of Harlem and his arrival into the intoxicating world of the theater lies a wilderness of desire and loss, shame and rage. An adored older brother vanishes into prison. There are love affairs with a white woman and a younger black man, each of whom will make irresistible claims on Leo's loyalty.
Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone is overpowering in its vitality and extravagant in the intensity of its feeling.
Baldwin’s personal reflections on movies gathered here in a book-length essay are also an appraisal of American racial politics. Offering an incisive look at racism in American movies and a vision of America’s self-delusions and deceptions, Baldwin challenges the underlying assumptions in such films as In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and The Exorcist.
Here are our loves and hates, biases and cruelties, fears and ignorance reflected by the films that have entertained us and shaped our consciousness. And here too is the stunning prose of a writer whose passion never diminished his struggle for equality, justice, and social change.