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There is something about the way the author looks at the world. His words are enriching, the story of this book is the story of his life. He is little black boy born in Mississippi. His father is a drunk who leaves his mother and younger brother. The mother left to fend for herself shares the responsibility of raising the two boys with her own family, with social welfare, with strangers, etc. The common background theme to all of this is the escalated racial abuse the blacks are facing at the hands of the whites. Things are much worse in the book than you could ever have imagined for the black folk in USA.
The author as a young kid could never discern the difference between a black person and a white person. Yet those around him hushed their own beliefs and kept on egging on. He never related to others, neither of his own community or the enemy white. The author throughout his life had a very keen point of looking at the world.
THE FIRST HALF - will make you laugh because the author makes life of this misery of his own life. But you will also be shocked at the depth of his feeling and understanding of the world. I could not believe his words, they have a trance like effect.
THE SECOND HALF - The author becomes an adult, he tries to make things work, he leaves his home, his mother now sick and dying.. He is unhappy, there is no hope, no silver lining in his life.
At first, he feared the oppression. Then he fears the ignorance festering among the black people.
Kindle version; The book itself is worth 5 stars, but this is the abridged version with the end missing, Amazon is making you buy that part as a separate book. While this is how it was originally published the full edition has existed for quite some time now and there is no reason for it to be separated again other than to milk a few more pennies out of the customer. Richard Wright continues to be exploited for the benefit of others.
This is a very sobering account of what it was like being black (African American) in the American Deep South in the early 1900's. Slavery had been abolished of course, but the South's white supremacists were having none of that, `Jim Crow' laws made sure that the blacks were treated as second class citizens. The South had been used to looking down on the slave, black community, and figured on keeping someone below themselves in social status - for as long as possible! These Southern whites were some of the most ignorant, intolerant and embarrassingly racist, social thugs in America's whole history. Their own social history shames the American nation and is a stain that will not go away. I'd like to say that this is now resigned to history, but unfortunately old habits die hard in America, so it's not, race discrimination against African Americans in the States is rife, it's just done in a different way in the twenty first century - incarceration, lack of funding for black education, the recent 'shoot to kill' policy in black areas? This book is yet another book that relives the White American racist traits. - To Kill a Mocking Bird, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Huckleberry Finn, The Story of Emmett Till & umpteenth Martin Luther King & the Civil Rights Movement books relay a legacy that won't die. The reason it won't go away is because they are still practicing it! That's why when you read books like this it's so very sad - nothing much has changed - even with a black President? This book is good and slightly different because it spends time telling you how someone like Richard Wright really felt in that awful, intimidating and repressive environment, and how his emotions tormented him. He was one of the lucky ones; he had the savvy to get out. The other sadness from this story is how religion made some black people's lives even worse? Richard's only real soul mate was his mother. It must have been a very long, lonely, journey? It's a relief to know that he eventually succeeded.
Published in 1945, the autobiography of Richard Wright Black Boy was originally going to be told in two parts. The first part chronicled Richards upbringing in Mississippi and his eventual realisation that in order to make something of himself he needed to leave the south. The second part of the book followed Richard in Chicago as he establishes himself as a writer.
Just when Black Boy was going to be published, the book was picked up by the Book of the Month club (which was the equivalent of the Oprah Winfrey book club today.) But the Book Club would only accept the first part of the book and this is how the book was originally published. Today you can buy the full version of Richards life in the south and the north but for some reason my copy only contains the first part of his life in the south.
Born in 1908 I am sure you can imagine the kind of life that a black boy born in Mississippi at that time had.. The book starts in a very dramatic way when Richard accidentally burns down his family home and then we follow his childhood as he deals with his father leaving, poverty, racial hatred and his family forcing their religion on him.
Wright is an incredibility talented writer and he attempts to explain how he has turned out the way he has and why he ultimately had to leave the south in order to pursue his dreams as a writer. He explains how the culture in the south at that time among black people forced him to behave in a certain way in order to avoid being noticed or lynched and how attitudes and nervousness towards white people were ingrained from a very early age (with good reason). All this meant was that he was unable to truly be himself within the communities that he lived in.
"Although they lived in America where in theory there existed equality of opportunity, they knew unerringly what to aspire to and what not to aspire to. Had a black boy announced that he aspired to be a writer, he would have been unhesitatingly called crazy by his pals."
This is a brutal book in places but it is also incredibility compelling, warm and funny and of course this doesn't make the south at that time look good. Even when Richard does meet a non racist white man, he is still suspicious and nervous and cannot wait to get away from the man purely because of the way that he has been conditioned. His own family constantly give him beatings in what they see as his own good and in an attempt to make him learn to adapt to a white-dominant black-subservient society.
Its a beautifully written book and I think this passage perfectly demonstrates this as well as showing how Richard explains why he had to leave.
"Not only had the southern whites not known me, but more important still, as I had lived in the South I had not had the chance to learn who I was. The pressure of southern living kept me from being the kind of person that I might have been. I had been what my surroundings had demanded, what my family - conforming to the dictates of the whites above them had exacted of me, and what the whites had said that I must be. Never being fully able to be myself, I had slowly learned that the south could recognize but a part of a man, could accept but a fragment of his personality, and all the rest - the best and deepest things of heart and mind - were tossed away in blind ignorance and hate".
Fantastic read I love this book. I've only just got it and annoy out it down. I'm really annoyed it has scribbles and underlined sentences (in pen) in it though. I like my books mint so going to have to buy a again elsewhere. 5 stars for the author 2 stars for condition
This book is a hidden gem. I was shocked to read about the brutality and harsh reality of a black boy growing up in the South. Some of the issues raised such as black on black crime, abandonment and religion are really interesting to read from a 21st century context. This book should be in every black boy's stocking at Christmas.