Wednesday, December 19, 2007

No Name In The Streets

I am slowly reading and slowly getting closer to finishing "No Name in the Streets" an autobiographical book by James Baldwin describing the political climates surrounding Malcom's death, King's death, life in the rural south, Paris and the Algerians and life, of course, in Harlem. How I'm finding time to read it in all this holiday hooplah is beyond me, but here I am nearly done. I'm writing about it now because its on my mind to recommend it, and I fear that I won't be done before I'm in Seattle.

The first part of the book title "Take Me to the Water" starts with his life as a child in Harlem among all of his brothers and sisters, which jumps quickly to modern times. It covers his life in Paris, as well as the reasons for making the move which mostly relate to the state of his life in the US dealing with racism and injustice (as well as witnessing these actions done to his fellow man). Witnessing the treatment of Algerians in Paris, as a black american which, at least to me, relates very directly to the treatment of arabs in America today. His thoughts on the rural south and the quiet nobility of the black men he met there. (I know I'm jumping around but its so much that you'd really have to read it for yourself.) His thoughts on the white liberals he encountered at the time. And just various other observations. His astuteness is both at the same time, moving and provocative. It seems as if he judged the world with all the clarity one would wish to have, looking at both himself and his own shortcomings as well as the people that he encountered, always leaving room for where his own prejudices might influence his opinion. I've hardly read a more eloquent writer.

The second part of the book deals largely with the trial of Tony Maynard and the death of Malcolm X, who he was initially afraid of and intimidated by but grew to love and respect. I want to say the parts dealing with the trial read a lot like a murder mystery and yet I feel that its not doing the situation actual justice, because these are real events and this is someone's life. Someone accused of a crime he did not commit, who fled to Germany to escape another wrongful conviction only to find himself arrested and extradited for another crime.

Now of course, I'm at work so this is about all I can put up regarding the book (I would have liked to type up an excerpt or two but there just isn't the time.) What I'm hoping is that you'll find time, make time to read some of Baldwin's work. I had been wanting to read more of his work since I first started his essays in college and have finally felt in my mid-twenties that I can grasp the weight of his genius.

Reading his work makes it all the more clear why I write.



At 7:10 AM, Blogger .jen said...

Ahh, sounds like boyfriend's mom would have loved this one for Christmas. I got her "What is the What?"

Think I'll try this one out after the holidays.. on my plate right now are Atonement and yesterday just picked up "Magical Thinking."

At 2:41 PM, Blogger mh said...

Magical thinking? I've been thinking of that book for a minute. Maybe I'll have to stop by the bookstore during my trip and have a little online recap after the holidays.


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