Man in the Mirror: John Howard Griffin and the Story of Black Like Me

Robert Bonazzi, Author
Robert Bonazzi, Author Orbis Books $18 (206p) ISBN 978-1-57075-118-9
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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In 1959, John Howard Griffin, a white man, chemically altered the color of his skin to become a black man, and entered black society in the Deep South so that he could experience firsthand the harshness and prejudice of segregation. His book, Black Like Me, described his experiences to an audience that was fascinated by the sensational aspects of his journey. At the heart of Griffin's experience, however, was a deeply spiritual notion that we see in all human beings our ""intrinsic other."" Bonazzi, who was close to Griffin, here traces the journey of John Howard Griffin from his early life through the aftermath of the publication of Black Like Me. Through interviews and close readings of Black Like Me, a portrait of Griffin as a compassionate man deeply committed to social justice through love emerges. In the first section of the book, Bonazzi explores Griffin's life to show that his background in a racist family and community in Texas militated against his journey toward justice. But, through his years as a student in Paris as well as through his own physical blindness, Griffin became a man who worked tirelessly, though primarily through his writings, for racial justice. In the final section of the book, Bonazzi uses Griffin's letters, novels and journals to show how deeply his Catholic faith, particularly his long friendship with Thomas Merton, informed his vision of himself as a priest to others through his writings. While Bonazzi's book gives a fascinating portrait of an important personality in American history, his style of piling quotation upon quotation makes for tiresome reading. (Sept.)
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