First published in 1955 and reprinted with a new introduction in 1984, Notes of a Native Son is James Baldwin’s first collection of essays. While one might suppose that the title essay is the one that critiques Richard Wright’s Native Son (that would be “Many Thousands Gone”), “Notes of a Native Son” is actually about Baldwin’s father and their tumultuous relationship. The book also includes a critical essay on the film Carmen Jones and on protest novels, specifically Uncle Tom’s Cabin. He tells the story of a remote Swiss village which he favored for writing a couple of winters and how the villagers thought him a complete novelty, never having seen a Black man before.
Baldwin has so much to say in this short book and so much wisdom to share that I could read it twenty times and still glean something new from it each time. Read this book. Read his other works. I know I will.
Review by Jessica A.