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Book Review| James Baldwin -Beale Street & Collected Essays

Updated: Feb 1, 2020

In the year 2019, most of the world will know James Baldwin for being the writer of If BeaIe Street Could Talk (written in 1974) which inspired a screen play by Berry Jenkins that went on to infamy being nominated for three oscars (winning one) and winning a golden globe. Some would be surprised to know that the name James Baldwin is almost synonymous with African American history in the United States. I doubt that an academic curriculum on African American History without a piece of his work exists today. His writings are inspired by a personal experience as an African American man in 20th Century America and explore the social dynamics in Western Societies as it related to race, sex, and class. He is one of the great literary intellectuals of the American Civil Right Movement.

Baldwin (collected essays) is one of three books published by published by The Library of America referencing the aforementioned author. This collection was edited by Toni Morrison, and is the best of the three publications at exhibiting the evolution of his work over time. If you are a frequent visitor to (or follow) my instagram account you already know that I am a huge fan of James Baldwin's writing style. I really enjoy his humor, wit, vulnerability, sporadic darkness and verbal eloquence. Therefore, purchasing and reading (in some cases re-reading) the pieces in this collection of work was a must for my 2018 reading list! Also, might I add, it's a very esthetic addition to the bookshelf.

This collection, of course, contains some of his most notable writings such as Notes of a Native Son and Nobody Knows my Name, however it also offers the reader insight to a more intimate Baldwin by including other essays less frequented such as The Creative Process, An Open Letter to Mr. Carter and The Price of the Ticket.

See below for three of my favorite quotes from this collection (in no particular order). I am looking forward to hearing what you all think about this book. As always, when you are finished reading, connect with me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to let me know your thoughts, questions and/or comments. I love hearing from you all!

What book would you recommend I read next?

xoxoxoxoxox -Happy reading my friends,



"I love America more than any other country in the world, and , exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. I think all theories are suspect, that the finest principles may have to be modified, or may even be pulverized by the demands of life, and that one must find, therefore, one's own moral center and move through the world hoping that this center will guide one aright. I consider that I have many responsibilities, but none greater than this: to last, as Hemingway says, and get my work done. I want to be an honest man and a good writer."

-Autobiographical Notes


"Guilt is a luxury that we can no longer afford. I know you didn't do it, and I didn't do it either, but I am responsible for it because I am a man and a citizen of this country and you are responsible for it, too, for the very same reason: ... [together] we could save this country, we could save the world."

-Essay: December 1964


"...the whole process of education occurs within a social framework and is designed to perpetuate the aims of one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated. The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make decisions, to say to himself this is black or this is white, to decide for himself whether there is a God in heaven or not."

-Essay: (A Talk to Teachers) December 1963


Happy Reading Friends!





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