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RITE OF PASSAGE by Richard Wright


by Richard Wright

Pub Date: Jan. 30th, 1994
ISBN: 0-06-023419-9
Publisher: HarperCollins

In a previously unpublished story, Wright shows how a Harlem teenager is suddenly and profoundly changed by misfortune. Proudly bearing a straight-A report card, Johnny Gibbs comes home to a double shock: he's told that he's a foster child and that he's to be forcibly moved away from the family where he's lived since the age of six months. Wild with rage and grief, he runs to the streets; within hours, he has broken into a store, joined a gang of muggers, and become its leader after a vicious fight. Rejecting his whole past, Johnny begins to rebuild his life around feelings of alienation and the conviction that he's entirely on his own. Wright's unusual turns of phrase and crudely drawn characters give the story an air of unreality, despite some sharply drawn themes: the faceless indifference of white society; the fragility of family ties in the ghetto; and, most especially, the deep hatred of each race for the other. In a transparent effort to get this onto college reading lists, the publishers append a long academic afterword by Arnold Rampersad, editor of the "Library of America" edition of Wright's works, analyzing these themes and showing how they recur in the author's other books. More a literary afterthought than a gateway to this still-controversial writer. Chronology; selected author bibliography. (Fiction/Criticism. YA+)