Any commentary I could make would do poor service to his writing and his ideas, but the more and more I read this book the more I appreciate his voice, reasoned, calm, pleading of an understanding to the issue of race which even the most "liberated" of us only poorly grasp.
There are a LOT of things that the author says that continue to remain pertinent to this day -- especially to this day -- and it really needs to be read, digested and remembered.
These collected musings have a superior way of giving us an understanding of America's identity crisis. Both classics serve as a complete instrument in seeing into the underlying issues of America's oldest and most oppressed demographic group. Frederick's story plays out in the rural south during America's slave holding period. James Baldwin is Black America's identity theft counselor. Baldwin was loyal to a purpose that had faced obscurity in our country, i.e. redeeming the spiritual health of the descendants of Africa. To take from Nietzsche's idea of a poet, 'he brings down curtains of illusion to reveal more of the truth.' Baldwin pulls down matters of 'fact' to reveal the truth of the matter. Princes and Powers and Nobody Knows My Name: A Letter from the South are two favorites in this essay. Princes and Powers provides a global view of the African Diaspora and its identity. JB goes on to state that the African American can play on a global scale when he sees where he fits on the world's stage. The entitled section Nobody Knows My Name: A Letter from the South is even more endearing. This dark world of obscurity was waiting for me and other black and brown skinned boys in southeast Texas. I nicknamed this part of the collection 'the poser section.' Lets just say this story reverberates the reason why decent ideas like Tarentino's Django will never represent justice in America's race issues.
Two things I liked best about this collection: 1) the order in which the essays are arranged (thanks to the editor) and 2) the glimpses at Baldwin's inner struggles, which brought me closer to learning more about one of my favorite authors: "And here I was, at thirty-two, finding my notoriety hard to bear, since its principal effect was to make me more lonely; money, it turned out, was exactly like sex, you thought of nothing else if you didn't have it and thought of other things if you did; and love, as far as I could see, was over. "The Discovery of What It Means To Be An American" because Baldwin is searing in his probe to live unlimited as a writer, a search which leads him to Paris. 3. "A Fly in Buttermilk" explores the American South during integration. The story of young 'G' was uplifting as it provided a view of African American children in the south and how they risked their lives to attend newly integrated schools.
this book is extremely courageous...he's talking about what it's like to be a gay african american in late fifties and early sixties. he seems to see right through the people he writes about...seeing their mask and seeing them without their masks...seeing their beauty...seeing where they are coming from...seeing the difficulties they face. a lot of the sentences where he writes about himself starts with "I didn't understand then that..." in the book he comes back from france (after a 10 year visit because he wanted to escape the racism and homophobia of the USA) and visits the south for the first time. i got the impression when i read this book "i really want to meet this man...i know i wouldn't be the same afterwards" happy that he left so much writing for us to understand.
James Arthur Baldwin was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. Critics, however, note the impassioned cadences of Black churches are still evident in his writing. His novels include Giovanni's Room, about a white American expatriate who must come to terms with his homosexuality, and Another Country, about racial and gay sexual tensions among New York intellectuals.