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text 2020-06-09 05:52
Reading for our moment
Collected Essays - James Baldwin,Toni Morrison

It's hard to believe that it was only two weeks ago that a Minneapolis police officer asphyxiated George Floyd. Since then there has been a remarkable awakening both in America and in many other parts of the world in response to this. Only time will tell what will come of it, but I'm cautiously optimistic that we may see real change result from this tragedy.

 

One of the responses to this has been a dramatic increase in the number of books sold on race and racism. It's frustrating in a way — we shouldn't need someone's murder to remind us that racism is an issue — yet I hope that the people who buy these books will read them and take something important from them. I can certainly sympathize with their desire to learn more, as I've felt the need to read up on something so relevant to our moment, especially as for the past few months I've been a little too self-indulgent in my reading choices.

 

This is why I decided to order a collection of James Baldwin's essays. His is one of those names that I have long encountered without engaging in any great detail with his biography or his thinking. But lately he seems to me more omnipresent than ever. It was after reading a review of a book about his 1965 Cambridge debate with William F. Buckley that I was inspired to change that. So a copy will soon be winging its way towards me, and once I receive it I will make it a priority to read one or two essays a day until I am through with the collection.

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text 2020-06-02 14:13
#BlackOutTuesday
Kindred - Octavia E. Butler
Beloved - Toni Morrison
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness - Michelle Alexander
The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream - Barack Obama
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration - Isabel Wilkerson
If Beale Street Could Talk - James Baldwin
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Wisehouse Classics Edition) - Frederick Douglass
African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850�1920 - Rosalyn Terborg-Penn
Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race - Margot Lee Shetterly
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy - Ta-Nehisi Coates

Here are some books by African American authors you may want to read:

 

Kindred by Octavia Butler: The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity. Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given...

 

Beloved by Toni Morrison: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Toni Morrison’s Beloved is a spellbinding and dazzlingly innovative portrait of a woman haunted by the past. Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad, yet she is still held captive by memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Meanwhile Sethe’s house has long been troubled by the angry, destructive ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander: "Jarvious Cotton's great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole." 
As the United States celebrates the nation's "triumph over race" with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status--much like their grandparents before them.

 

 

 
The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream
by Barack Obama: The Audacity of Hope is Barack Obama's call for a new kind of politics—a politics that builds upon those shared understandings that pull us together as Americans. Lucid in his vision of America's place in the world, refreshingly candid about his family life and his time in the Senate, Obama here sets out his political convictions and inspires us to trust in the dogged optimism that has long defined us and that is our best hope going forward.
 
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration
by Isabel Wilkerson: n this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.
 
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin: In this honest and stunning novel, James Baldwin has given America a moving story of love in the face of injustice. 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.
 
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (The Autobiographies #1) by Frederick Douglass. Autobiography of Frederick Douglass. 
 
African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920
by Rosalyn Terborg-Penn: Drawing from original documents, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn constructs a comprehensive portrait of the African American women who fought for the right to vote. She analyzes the women's own stories of why they joined and how they participated in the U.S. women's suffrage movement. Not all African American women suffragists were from elite circles. Terborg-Penn finds working-class and professional women from across the nation participating in the movement. Some employed radical, others conservative means to gain the right to vote. But Black women were unified in working to use the ballot to improve both their own status and the lives of Black people in their communities.
 
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly: The #1 New York Times Bestseller. Set amid the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program. Before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as ‘Human Computers’, calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts, these ‘coloured computers’ used pencil and paper to write the equations that would launch rockets and astronauts, into space. Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War and the women’s rights movement, ‘Hidden Figures’ interweaves a rich history of mankind’s greatest adventure with the intimate stories of five courageous women whose work forever changed the world. 
 
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates: "We were eight years in power" was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. Now Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America's "first white president."
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review 2020-02-14 14:53
Powerful and thought provoking
Giovanni's Room - James Baldwin

What a wonderful yet very powerful read. David is betrothed to Hella, he is an American living in Paris waiting for his lover to join him. A chance meeting at a Paris bar with a young attractive Italian, Giovanni, results in David questioning values that he has always believed to be true. He takes a decision that will profoundly alter the course of his life, with devastating consequences.

 

Giovanni's room poses the question, do we as humans follow convention and lead a life and follow a set of codes that is expected of us, or should we throw caution to the wind and by so doing be true to our self. A story that it is impossible not to be affected by and issues as important today as when the novel was first published. Highly Recomended

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review 2019-07-16 17:45
Can You See Me America?
I Am Not Your Negro - James Baldwin

I heard about the movie, but had no idea there was a companion book to it.

 

"In his final years, Baldwin had envisioned a book about his three assassinated friends, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. His deeply personal notes for the project have never been published before. 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."

 

The writing, essays, the photos that were used are powerful and makes one want to hang your head down and wonder when will we get to that mountaintop where all men and women are seen as equal no matter the color of their skin? We have a US President and conservative based Congress that think racism is okay. They think if they are not calling black people, those who worship differently than them a slur that it's okay. It's like watching everything slowly grind to a halt and you want everyone to just wake up. Call a thing the name that it is. It's racism. We have ignored it for too long and we don't seem to care to change.

 

Baldwin's writing is electrifying. It gets in your blood and in your head and I find myself nodding my head and feeling nothing but sorrow because in 2019 we have not come far enough. To think we are pushing ourselves back to a time in this country where we are once again seen as "other" and "wrong" I don't know what we do to combat it. 

 

"JAMES BALDWIN: Well, I don’t think there’s much hope for it, you know, to tell you the truth as long as people are using this peculiar language. It’s not a question of what happens to the Negro here or to the black man here—that’s a very vivid question for me, you know—but the real question is what is going to happen to this country. I have to repeat that."

 

 "Forget the Negro problem. Don’t write any voting acts. We had that—it’s called the fifteenth amendment—during the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. What you have to look at is what is happening in this country, and what is really happening is that brother has murdered brother knowing it was his brother. White men have lynched Negroes knowing them to be their sons. White women have had Negroes burned knowing them to be their lovers. It is not a racial problem. It is a problem of whether or not you’re willing to look at your life and be responsible for it, and then begin to change it. That great Western house I come from is one house, and I am one of the children of that house. Simply, I am the most despised child of that house. And it is because the American people are unable to face the fact that I am flesh of their flesh, bone of their bone, created by them. My blood, my father’s blood, is in that soil."

 

"JAMES BALDWIN: There is nothing in the evidence offered by the book of the American republic which allows me really to argue with the cat who says to me: “They needed us to pick the cotton and now they don’t need us anymore. Now they don’t need us, they’re going to kill us all off. Just like they did the Indians.” And I can’t say it’s a Christian nation, that your brothers will never do that to you, because the record is too long and too bloody. That’s all we have done. All your buried corpses now begin to speak."

 

"JAMES BALDWIN: I don’t know what most white people in this country feel. But I can only conclude what they feel from the state of their institutions. I don’t know if white Christians hate Negroes or not, but I know we have a Christian church which is white and a Christian church which is black. I know, as Malcolm X once put it, the most segregated hour in American life is high noon on Sunday. That says a great deal for me about a Christian nation. It means I can’t afford to trust most white Christians, and I certainly cannot trust the Christian church."

 

This also includes some very hard pictures to view such as a black woman being lynched, people being jeered, and Martin Luther King in his coffin. I did not want to include them in this review because it was upsetting enough for me to view. This was definitely interesting to read and I am going to seek out the documentary soon. 

 

I end on this. 

 

I am a black woman, when you tell me you don't see my color or it's unimportant, you are telling me you don't see me, that I am not important. When the default color is white and Christian you ignore what makes up this country of ours. To speak out against what we see is wrong is the American thing to do. 

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text 2019-01-21 18:24
Notes on Adaptation: Beale Street Update
If Beale Street Could Talk - James Baldwin

For those of you who responded to my co-review of the novel and film "If Beale Street Could Talk," http://carissagreen50.booklikes.com/post/1834550/notes-on-adaptation-beale-street-update

here's a little update: The film played in my town one week. 

 

One week. Damn, I'm glad I went on the first night. 

In the meantime, Aquaman and Bumblebee are still going strong.

 

-cg

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