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James Baldwin

Writer, Radical, Visionary

Oprah's Book Club reintroduces the classics, book imprints are re-releasing classic literature and more and more readers are rediscovering the great Black writers. If you haven't met some of the classic writers, get a primer on one not to miss author, James Baldwin, plus get a quick list of his books to get you started.

James Baldwin
James Baldwin
James Baldwin (1924-1987) is one of the 20th century's most compelling and influential voices. In his fiction, plays and poetry, Baldwin explored the subjects of race, class, oppression, Black rage and homosexuality with startling clarity. His work was unprecedented for the time, and his contributions to the American canon influenced numerous writers, including Toni Morrison and Amiri Baraka.

Baldwin was born in Harlem. The oldest of nine children, he followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a preacher in a small church. Though his passion for writing eventually led him away from the pulpit, the stylized language, cadence and tone of the Black church is clearly evident in his work.

After working for a New Jersey railroad, Baldwin moved to New York City's Greenwich Village, where he met noted author Richard Wright and worked as a freelance writer. In 1948, Wright helped Baldwin get a grant to support his writing; Baldwin thenleft for Paris to devote himself to writing.

Later, in Switzerland Baldwin completed Go Tell It On the Mountain (1953), an impassioned autobiographical work about growing up impoverished in Harlem in a brutally racist society. The book is widely recognized as an American Classic.

In addition to Paris and Switzerland, Baldwin lived in Istanbul and New York. In the early 1960s he returned to the United States to participate in the Civil Rights Movement. Nobody Knows My Name (1961) and The Fire Next Time (1963) were among the works he published during this time, and all were extremely influential -- not only to writers but to activists as well.

After the deaths of his friends Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, Baldwin returned to France, where he continued to write about issues of race, identity and oppression. In spite of heavy criticism for his pacifism and homosexuality, Baldwin remained true to his identity and in the process secured himself a firm place in the history of American literary greatness.

Ready to read Baldwin? Pick up a copy of one of his classic books:

Another Country
Go Tell It on the Mountain
Notes of a Native Son
If Beale Street Could Talk
Blues for Mister Charlie
The Fire Next Time
Giovanni's Room

By Donia Allen, Special to
Rédigé le Mercredi 14 Avril 2004 à 00:00 | Lu 8858 fois | 0 commentaire(s)

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