Thursday, September 29, 2016
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
It has been over twenty years since I read The Fire Next Time and with everything that is happening in the world right now I should probably give this another read. Black men being shot and killed in the streets by those who have sworn to serve and protect, an American election that makes my stomach turn, and images of Americans behaving in ways that hearken back to the ugliest moments in our country's history makes it harder and harder to stay plugged in to social media. Social media and the nastiness being indulged in by so many who feel emboldened by the illusion of anonymity makes my heart ache. So much progress has been paid for in blood, sweat, and tear; yet there is still so far to go.
I stumbled across a review on Goodreads by a reviewer named Chris Blocker. His review is nothing but quotes from the book along with photographs. I don't want to spoil the imagery for you, but you can go see it and please 'like' the review here. I have to say, it took my breath away. Blocker's review had me teary eyed and having to take deep breaths. Nothing on Goodreads has ever struck me that way and it took me totally by surprise. If you haven't read a Baldwin book, please do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of The Fire Next Time. I can't find my copy and I will be grabbing another physical copy for myself and my children immediately.
A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement. 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. 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 our literature.