Notes of a Native Son

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin (1955) This book is a collection of essays, and while probably one of those books you feel like you should, or should have read, it's not a huge drag like I find a lot of the “should stuff”—but it's by no means a hoot, either, or even a workout at the gym. I love James Baldwin's writing, and his voice, and I like hearing it in my brain, and I might go right back and start this book over, both because I don't think I came close to getting it all, and also because his style of writing inspires me. I don't know if I've exactly come to terms with my role as a white person amid ongoing racial inequality, but it's an evolving process. All learning is, of course—never done. It's equally as hard to accept that I'm not very smart, in a relative sense—but of course, what point is there dwelling on that? One can just keep trying to do better, I guess. I was surprised at, on one hand, how specific some of the essays in this book are, like an examination of Carmen Jones (1954) which I haven't seen, but probably will, some day, and think of this. And how compelling, in an almost fiction-like way some of the other accounts are, of the harrowing adventures of young James Baldwin, faced with the various forces of society—and trying to remember these things happened half a century or more ago. And mostly of how totally relevant this all is to the times we are living in now. It may be more relevant now than it ever was—and I don't know if that's just really depressing, as for our world, or it's just saying a lot about his insight and vision—I suppose both those things.