The latest in a long line of classics I should have read years ago. The latest in a series of reviews o books so important, so pivotal, that it’s absurd to try to write a review.
Still, I’ll give it a go. This, Baldwin’s combination letter to his nephew / meditation on what it means to be a black man in America, is stunning in its use of language, gut wrenching in the in the way it lays bare the racial wounds at the center of the American experience, and inspiring in its pure energy. My god was missing out. Part memoir, part reportage, part meditation, the parallels between this and Coates’s recent (and also brilliant) Between the World and Me are obvious. Both books are brilliant, and both books should be read.
Reading this book right after finishing Marable’s biography on Malcolm X is also illuminating. The Nation of Islam plays a large role in Baldwin’s examination of the way Christianity and Islam have affected the black experience in America, and specifically in Harlem. Baldwin is clearly intrigued by the ideas of the NOI, though he comes to them with a healthy skepticism. I wonder if his feelings about these sections changed after his friend Malcolm was pushed out.
You can’t read something like this and not be a bit changed. It’s that powerful. This is a brilliant work, but you probably knew that already. I wish I knew it earlier.