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The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

The Fire Next Time (1963)

by James Baldwin

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"...a vast amount of the energy that goes into what we call the Negro porblem is produced by the white man's profound desire not to be judged by those who are not white, not to be seen as he is, and at the same time a vast amount of the white anguish is rooted in the white man's equally profound need to be seen as he is, to be released from the tyranny of his mirror."

As profound today as when it was first published. ( )
  Bodagirl | Jun 1, 2018 |
Excellent, wish it was longer. This is the second Baldwin book I have read (Notes on a Native Sun was the other) and now I want to check out some of his novels. ( )
  gabarito | May 13, 2018 |
Iconic for a good reason. As he described the ways in which blacks are thought to be lesser people and held in situations where they have no chance to exit to success, I couldn't help thinking of the parallels to the treatment of women. As with blacks, the Bible (or equivalent) is used to justify a whole range of dimishments and restrictions. Very interesting. Will be worth rereading. Got it from the library and then bought for my Kindle. ( )
  abycats | May 11, 2018 |
After reading my first Baldwin literature, which was superbly insightful, precise, and powerful, I was expecting much, much more from this work. I struggle with why that is so. Perhaps, as this is non-fiction, the material is just more dated and what was new thought back then is now much more obvious now. Moreover, often I had the feeling that the author had so much to say and so much emotion behind it that his statements spilled out as so much regurgitation, thoughts revealed in semi-digested states and all mixed together, more difficult to distinguish and appreciate than they would have been separately. I have also considered whether or not I was, as a non-black, in any way the intended target of his exposition. I came away with the impression that sometimes he was talking just to other blacks and sometimes to everyone else as an introduction to black Americans. There is some very interesting insight into the black religious experience and more especially into the difference between American black Christianity and black Islam doctrine. This was made all the more interesting to me since I was concurrently reading another book about the distinctions between black African tribal mores and black African Christianity. As highly observant as the author's comments are about these religiously based subjects, I am not at all convinced he had been able to remove himself from his own religious experience to be as objective as he intended. This would not be my first recommendation to the author's work, but that is not to say it is not worth reading. ( )
  larryerick | Apr 26, 2018 |
I bit dated in parts, but very relevant still today. (And sadly the dated parts aren't because it's gotten sooo much better. ( )
  RivetedReaderMelissa | Mar 22, 2018 |
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"God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
No more water, the fire next time!"
for James
Luc James
First words
Dear James:
I have begun this letter five times and torn it up five times.
Whoever debases others is debasing himself.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 067974472X, Paperback)

It's shocking how little has changed between the races in this country since 1963, when James Baldwin published this coolly impassioned plea to "end the racial nightmare." The Fire Next Time--even the title is beautiful, resonant, and incendiary. "Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?" Baldwin demands, flicking aside the central race issue of his day and calling instead for full and shared acceptance of the fact that America is and always has been a multiracial society. Without this acceptance, he argues, the nation dooms itself to "sterility and decay" and to eventual destruction at the hands of the oppressed: "The Negroes of this country may never be able to rise to power, but they are very well placed indeed to precipitate chaos and ring down the curtain on the American dream."

Baldwin's seething insights and directives, so disturbing to the white liberals and black moderates of his day, have become the starting point for discussions of American race relations: that debasement and oppression of one people by another is "a recipe for murder"; that "color is not a human or a personal reality; it is a political reality"; that whites can only truly liberate themselves when they liberate blacks, indeed when they "become black" symbolically and spiritually; that blacks and whites "deeply need each other here" in order for America to realize its identity as a nation.

Yet despite its edgy tone and the strong undercurrent of violence, The Fire Next Time is ultimately a hopeful and healing essay. Baldwin ranges far in these hundred pages--from a memoir of his abortive teenage religious awakening in Harlem (an interesting commentary on his first novel Go Tell It on the Mountain) to a disturbing encounter with Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad. But what binds it all together is the eloquence, intimacy, and controlled urgency of the voice. Baldwin clearly paid in sweat and shame for every word in this text. What's incredible is that he managed to keep his cool. --David Laskin

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:13 -0400)

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Contains a letter to Baldwin's nephew on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Also describes his childhood, views on Black Muslims, and his visions.

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