Notes of a native son | James Baldwin

I made a decision last year to decolonise my reading, and aware of my scant knowledge of African-American writers and history, James Baldwin seemed a good place to start. I read his fiction many years ago when I was hungry for gay writers, and his powerful fictionalised memoir Go tell it on the mountain last year. It’s much more than a tale of a ghetto childhood; he goes deep into race, religion, poverty, family, and the social fabric of segregated America. Notes of a native son is a collection of essays curated by Baldwin, returning to the same kinds of themes as critic rather than novelist. He’s an immense writer in either form, never taking the obvious view, never offering platitudes. His analysis is scrupulous and unflinching, and while this collection discusses issues of the day from the 1950s, his polemic on representation, identity, prejudice and discrimination is still horribly relevant.