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BEGIN AGAIN by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. Kirkus Star


James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own

by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

ISBN: 978-0-525-57532-0
Publisher: Crown

A penetrating study of how the words of James Baldwin (1924-1987) continue to have (often painful) relevance today.

Glaude, a frequent guest on political talk shows and chair of the African American Studies department at Princeton, has long read, admired, and taught Baldwin’s work. In this follow-up to his 2016 book, Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul, the author mines that work to illustrate our ongoing inability to confront what both Baldwin and Glaude call the lie at the center of our American self-conception and how the nation refuses “to turn its back on racism and to reach for its better angels.” Glaude employs a blend of genres: some biography of Baldwin (the text ends at Baldwin’s gravesite), literary analysis of key works, memoir (first-person appears throughout), and pieces of American history, especially those events that many of us don’t want to think about. Repeatedly, the author examines “the ugliness of who we are”—and of the men we have elected president (Reagan and Trump do not come off well). In prose that is eloquent and impassioned—sometimes hopeful, sometimes not—the author presses his fingers on our bruises, the ones many of us would prefer to ignore. Among his many topics: Martin Luther King Jr. and how his murder both elevated his status and began to create the myth that conceals much of the truth about him; the civil rights movement and how many of its gains have been lost; the mass incarceration epidemic and what the author believes are the legally sanctioned murders of young black men. Much of the focus, of course, is on Baldwin: his literary rise, his years abroad (France, Turkey), and how, later in life, he continued to sell well but had lost the approval of many key literary critics. Both Baldwin and Glaude argue that we must begin again.

Baldwin’s genius glimmers throughout as Glaude effectively demonstrates how truth does not die with the one who spoke it.