Aw man. I’ve had this book for a few months and kept wanting to get to it, knowing it would be good. Richard Wright is so intense, which I love. Reading his stuff will get your blood pressure up.
Uncle Tom’s Children is actually his first book. This has one autobiographical essay and five short stories that follow it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before and think it’s so smart because it shows how and why he’s the guy to tell these stories. It also shows that though the following stories are fictional, they’re very real. That first essay is called “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow” and is terrifying. It’s about his navigation of the Jim Crow south, how he’s experienced it. It’s a snapshot of his book Black Boy, which is one of my favorite books ever.
The short stories are excellent too. They are similarly full of serious angst. His characters are people trying to survive the day-to-day, people deciding to at least die on their own terms, people pried apart from a family unit. Each story can really stand alone, but together they show how one interaction changes the course of your life down there. You shoot a white person in self-defense, you get on a stolen boat to avoid drowning, you have a son involved in the revolution–any one thing can invite extreme violence into your life and you just have to keep going.
Best line: Naw, Ahm goin on, no mattah WHUT! (Richard Wright 70)