audre lord

Revolutionary Change

Revolutionary Change

The true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations which we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us.
— Audre Lorde

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Native Son

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James Arthur Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987) was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. Baldwin’s essays, as collected in Notes of a Native Son (1955), explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-20th-century America, and their inevitable if unnameable tensions. Some Baldwin essays are book-length, for instance The Fire Next Time (1963), No Name in the Street (1972), and The Devil Finds Work (1976). Baldwin’s novels and plays fictionalize fundamental personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures thwarting the equitable integration of not only blacks, but also of gay men, while depicting some internalized obstacles to such individuals’ quests for acceptance. Such dynamics are prominent in Baldwin’s second novel, written well before gay equality was widely espoused in America: Giovanni’s Room (1956). Baldwin’s best-known novel is his first, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953).

James spent much time caring for his several younger brothers and sisters. At age ten, he was beaten by a gang of police officers. His stepfather died of tuberculosis in summer of 1943 soon before James turned 19. The day of the funeral was James’s 19th birthday, his father’s last child was born, and Harlem rioted, the portrait opening his essay “Notes of a Native Son”. The quest to answer or explain familial and social repudiation—and attain a sense of self, both coherent and benevolent—became a motif in Baldwin’s writing.

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