cover image Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own

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

Eddie S. Glaude Jr. Crown, $27 (208p) ISBN 978-0-525-57532-0

This erudite take frames the election of Donald Trump to replace America’s first black president as a “betrayal” analogous to the rise of Richard Nixon’s “so-called silent majority” following the collapse of the civil rights movement and looks to James Baldwin’s post-1968 writings for lessons in navigating the current political moment. Princeton University professor Glaude (Democracy in Black) explores how Baldwin’s focus shifted from “the gaze of white America” to the “well-being and future of black people” in his later work, including No Name in the Street (1972) and the documentary film I Heard It Through the Grapevine (1982), and contends that living in Istanbul gave Baldwin the privacy necessary to “reimagine hope” in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Glaude also details Baldwin’s complex relationship with the Black Power movement and his “prescient view” of the impact of mass incarceration on African-Americans. Applying these insights to the Black Lives Matter movement, debates over the removal of Confederate monuments, and modern-day identity politics, Glaude at times seems to be trying to fit three books into one. Nevertheless, he makes an effective and impassioned case for those dismayed by Trumpism to remain committed to building “a genuine democratic community where we all can flourish.” Progressives and fans of Baldwin’s work will savor this perceptive reappraisal. (Apr.)