A masterclass in political discourse that is also one of the most profound treatises on love I've ever read. Baldwin continues to outpace contemporary writers and thinkers on race, American-ness, and the sheer import of our entanglement with and responsibility to other people. Hugely compelling and as contemporary ideologically as it was in 1963 (for real, his speech "Talk to Teachers" from the same year reads with the same urgency as when he gave it). Recommended By SitaraG, Powells.com
First and foremost, The Fire Next Time is the most powerful account of being black in America that I have ever read. However, it is also a beautiful exploration of love, hate, history, death, and the universal human need to make art in order to heal. Baldwin delves into the darkness of humanity without ever once turning away from the light. Recommended By Marlena W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement. 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. 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 our literature.
"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
"So eloquent in its passion and so scorching in its candor that it is bound to unsettle any reader." The Atlantic
About the Author
James Baldwin (1924-1987) was a novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. His first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, appeared in 1953 to excellent reviews, and his essay collections Notes of a Native Son and The Fire Next Time were bestsellers that made him an influential figure in the growing civil rights movement. Baldwin spent much of his life in France, where he moved to escape the racism and homophobia of the United States. He died in France in 1987, a year after being made a Commander of the French Legion of Honor.