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Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own
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Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own

 

By Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
Hardcover
272 pages
June 2020

 


 
NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY CHICAGO TRIBUNE AND ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND TIME

 We live, according to Eddie S. Glaude Jr., in a moment when the struggles of Black Lives Matter and the attempt to achieve a new America have been challenged by the election of Donald Trump, a president whose victory represents yet another failure of America to face the lies it tells itself about race. From Charlottesville to the policies of child separation at the border, his administration turned its back on the promise of Obama’s presidency and refused to embrace a vision of the country shorn of the insidious belief that white people matter more than others. 

We have been here before: For James Baldwin, these after times came in the wake of the civil rights movement, when a similar attempt to compel a national confrontation with the truth was answered with the murders of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. In these years, spanning from the publication of The Fire Next Time in 1963 to that of No Name in the Street in 1972, Baldwin transformed into a more overtly political writer, a change that came at great professional and personal cost. But from that journey, Baldwin emerged with a sense of renewed purpose about the necessity of pushing forward in the face of disillusionment and despair.  

In the story of Baldwin’s crucible, Glaude suggests, we can find hope and guidance through our own after times, this Trumpian era of shattered promises and white retrenchment. Mixing biography—drawn partially from newly uncovered interviews—with history, memoir, and trenchant analysis of our current moment, Begin Again is Glaude’s endeavor, following Baldwin, to bear witness to the difficult truth of race in America today. It is at once a searing exploration that lays bare the tangled web of race, trauma, and memory, and a powerful interrogation of what we all must ask of ourselves in order to call forth a new America.

“A powerful study of how to bear witness in a moment when America is being called to do the same.”Time

“Even if you don’t agree with Glaude’s interpretations, you’ll find yourself productively arguing with them. He parses, he pronounces, he cajoles. He spurs you to revisit Baldwin’s work yourself.”—The New York Times

Begin Again is a groundbreaking and informative guide to Baldwin and his era.”—Washington Post
 
“In the midst of an ugly Trump regime and a beautiful Baldwin revival, Eddie Glaude has plunged to the profound depths and [soared to the] sublime heights of Baldwin’s prophetic challenge to our present-day crisis. This book is, undoubtedly, the best treatment we have of Baldwin’s genius and relevance. Glaude’s masterpiece puts a smile on Baldwin’s face from the grave even as Baldwin weeps for us in this grim moment! With subtle brilliance and heartfelt tears, Glaude breaks bread with Baldwin in order to give us courage and hope!”—Cornel West, author of Democracy Matters and Race Matters

Begin Again is . . . filled with the type of passion, lyricism, and fire that James Baldwin commands and deserves. . . . This phenomenal work [is] a timeless and spellbinding conversation between two brilliant writers.”—Edwidge Danticat, author of Brother, I’m Dying and Everything Inside

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