James Baldwin was born in Harlem in 1924, the oldest of nine children. At age 14, he followed in the footsteps of his adoptive father and became a Pentecostal preacher. The three years he spent preaching helped him to find the voice and style he would later use as a writer, while his experience of growing up poor, black and gay in the inner city shaped the content of his work. Baldwin's first novel, the semi-autobiographical Go Tell It on the Mountain, is perhaps his most well-known. However, Baldwin continued to be a critical voice of the American civil rights movement in the decades to follow.
The Fire Next Time is a collection of two essays, "My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation" (originally published in Wisconsin's The Progressive) and "Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region in My Mind." The first essay is written in letter style to Baldwin's nephew James, and the second details a visit he had with Elijah Muhammad is Chicago. Both essays are about race relations; the first focusing on their role in American history and the second about how they relate to and are manifested in religious practices in the United States. The essays of The Fire Next Time are lyrical and passionate, as well as insightful. Although it is a slim volume, it packs quite the punch, and is something that gives its readers plenty to think about. This is a must read for anyone interested in the American Civil Rights Movement or in modern-day anti-racist activism.
Jennifer P. @ Washington Park Library