An official Oprah Winfrey’s “The Books That Help Me Through” selection
A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation, gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement—and still lights the way to understanding race in America today.
"Basically the finest essay I’ve ever read. . . . Baldwin refused to hold anyone’s hand. He was both direct and beautiful all at once. He did not seem to write to convince you. He wrote beyond you.” --Ta-Nehisi Coates
At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin's early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document from the iconic author of If Beale Street Could Talkand Go Tell It on the Mountain. It consists of two "letters," written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism. Described by The New York Times Book Review as "sermon, ultimatum, confession, deposition, testament, and chronicle...all presented in searing, brilliant prose," The Fire Next Time stands as a classic of literature.
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Reading this amazing short story from James Baldwin in 2020 was very eye opening and I’m very glad to have read it and now add it to my collection, will definitely reread at some point.55
Beautiful and painful prose Much has changed since it was written in 1963 - so so much has not -55
The ability and desire to relentlessly and honestly, dig deep down to the root cause of a problem, has been an American weakness for a long time. Du Bois, Baldwin, and Coates all arrive precisely on this fact in their respective open letters to America. The idea of American Exceptionalism is so ingrained in everything we do and think; that to question it is paramount to treason. To ever look into the mirror and see the scars and blemishes of who we are is too much for most. To see in those lines of experience that maybe, just maybe, we are a racist nation. One built on the evil trade of men, stolen land, war, and soulless greed in its rise to power. Even more, the constant belittling and blaming of social ills on every new group that arrives is indoctrinated in its blood. Be they Black, Irish, Chinese, or Mexican, someone else is always the lesser. If we are ever to be truly Great, we have to look in the mirror and face the root cause of the strife between races here. We have to stop changing and omitting troubling facts from history textbooks, we have to stop saying slavery was long ago while ignoring every instance of institutional racial disparity and suppression that has come after. As Baldwin put it, “The price of the liberation of the white people is the liberation of the blacks—the total liberation, in the cities, in the towns, before the law, and in the mind.” That’s real freedom, finally facing, accepting and fixing the sins of the past. Letting go of those burdens by acknowledging them and collectively righting them the hard way, will be our arrival at the root cause and cutting away the tumor that has been killing us.55
The book was a great read. It spoke a lot of issues that are still relevant today. It was masterfully written. Mr. Baldwin left me with a hopeful feeling of change. Thank you45