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AMERICAN HUNGER by Richard Wright Kirkus Star

AMERICAN HUNGER

By Richard Wright

Pub Date: May 25th, 1977
Publisher: Harper & Row

This long-withheld sequel to Black Boy (1945) is an affecting, illuminating register of the evolution of Wright's artistic and political consciousness in the ten-year period just before his first books were published. Written at the same time and scheduled for publication but delayed for obscure reasons, it follows Wright through the crucial years when he first went North to Chicago (1927-36): a series of classic odd jobs as dishwasher, clerk, insurance policy hustler; exposure to influential periodicals and unrestricted library shelves; a brief, disillusioning immersion in the John Reed Club, a knot of factional disputes; and the baffling, painful break with the comrades who challenged his artistic priorities and solemn integrity. The harsh, ragged childhood of Black Boy is never far behind: even after he secured a desirable post office job, the Depression kept him and his family hungry. But Wright focuses on the books that fortified his resolve to write (Proust, Stein, psychology and sociology texts) and the events that intensified his political awareness, especially a dismal episode of latent racism at a writers' congress in New York, the "trial" of an associate who questioned policies, and Wright's own exile by peremptory party members when he refused assignments and withdrew from active participation. Even today, when variations on these themes have become familiar, Wright's version remains both personally revealing and important for its sympathetic but critical portraits of his black fellow travelers, recent migrants with limited visions and no grasp of this new form of exploitation. The first of six unpublished works to be released by the Wright Archive Committee at Yale, this is welcome as a missing piece of the puzzle, valuable as a sequel, and impressive on its own.