This is a great book that I never heard of before, but I liked the cover and I love James Baldwin so here I am.
Nobody Knows My Name is a collection of essays about life and literature and writers and writing and existing. Love his style and voice and openness. The first essay is about going to an impactful, complicated, imperfect conference, but life outside being just the same afterwards as it was earlier that day, completely unaware of the intellectual banter that went on in academia. Others are about his experiences finally traveling to the south and understanding better what it means to be American. And that what they have going on down there has everything to do with what goes on in the north (he’s from Harlem).
Baldwin also writes about his relationship with Richard Wright which is great and ugly and odd. It almost reminds me of the relationship between Jay-Z and Kanye West (except I think the personalities would be flipped). But anyway Baldwin is 20 years younger (and was 20 when they met) and looks up to him but also learns that he doesn’t quite get along with him as time goes on. Then he dies and Baldwin is stuck with a regretful feeling. Throughout the book, Baldwin wonders a lot about what it means to seem like opposites to someone–like black American men vs black African men or black American men vs white American men. The whole project is a question of coping and coexisting.
It is a terrible, an inexorable, law that one cannot deny the humanity of another without diminishing one’s own: in the face of ones victim, one sees oneself.James Baldwin
My bookstore: Ten Dollar Books