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The Fire Next Time

The Fire Next Time

eBook - 2013
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A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation, gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement—and still lights the way to understanding race in America today.  
"Basically the finest essay I’ve ever read. . . . Baldwin refused to hold anyone’s hand. He was both direct and beautiful all at once. He did not seem to write to convince you. He wrote beyond you.” —Ta-Nehisi Coates
 
At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin's early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document from the iconic author of If Beale Street Could Talk and Go Tell It on the Mountain. It consists of two "letters," written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism. Described by The New York Times Book Review as "sermon, ultimatum, confession, deposition, testament, and chronicle...all presented in searing, brilliant prose," The Fire Next Time stands as a classic of literature.
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

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AaronAardvark1940
Jun 11, 2021

This small book contains two essays. The second essay is subtitled “Letter From a Region in My Mind.” It is autobiographical in nature, covering certain periods in his life during which he came to understand the lies that he believed (and lies those that many of us believe). The writing is brutally honest and almost polemical. In discussing the concept that white Americans might “give” anything to Negroes (sic), he says, “It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep; they suppose that it is they themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be.” We see a lot of that today.
The first short essay is the famous “Letter to my Nephew…”. It is worth the price of the entire book. In trying to get my arms around racism (not to mention colonialism and imperialism), I have read Kendi, Wilkerson, DiAngelo, Achebe and others. If only I had read this Letter first!

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taedwardcc
May 27, 2021

The Fire Next Time, an evocative novel written by James Baldwin, is a compilation of two of his essays written in the 1960s expressing his powerful opinions on the ongoing racial conflicts. Throughout the two letters, he makes sure to emphasize some key points that he believes can aid in the establishment of equality and justice. One thing that immediately jumped out at me was Baldwin's statement that fear is a main motivating factor in racist and discriminatory behavior. In his second essay, "Down at the Cross", he discusses the equivalencies between racial struggles and religious antagonism. The different major religions, such as Christianity and Islam, often have a vehement opposition to each other in their own worldviews, and such hostility is caused by fear of what the other believes, he writes. With his eloquent narrative, Baldwin declares that love is the uniting force that humanity needs, and only through the improvement of interracial amity can lasting change be achieved. This point is further driven home by words from the first essay in the novel, a letter to his 15-year old nephew James Baldwin on the centenary of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. "... If the word integration means anything, this is what it means: that we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it." A revolution and violence would only further exacerbate the divisions roiling Black and white communities, he writes, and a changing of the perception of Black people would be the only way to start the process of healing and social recovery.
Through the lens of the immediate descendant of a slave, we gain a unique insight and perspective into American racism and his prescribed remedies for the cultural divides splitting communities all over the country.
I would recommend this book for readers 12 years and older who are interested in diving deeper into the history of American race relations.

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SiriusPutsch
Apr 04, 2021

An incredible work of art; aesthetically, spiritually, and politically of the utmost relevance.

LCPL_Vivian Feb 08, 2021

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin withstands the test of time. It's the perfect book to read for Black History Month. He talks about his journey with racism while being a young minister for the Christian church, and how America (specifically) has A LOT of work to do regarding that topic. Everyone should give this book a chance. Every line holds importance making this book hard to put down.

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MillieBT
Oct 07, 2020

This is my first book but not my last. Informative!!!!!

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PEBerglund_0
Sep 26, 2020

Fire Next Time by Baldwin is very relevant for 2020, even though it was written in 1962. I read this now to prepare to read Fire This Time by Ward.

k
kaseybreda
Aug 22, 2020

106 pages

1
1tarheel
Jul 05, 2020

I started with Baldwin with 'I Am Not Your Negro,' so it's easy for me to see how closely his writing follows his speaking (and actually 'preaching') style. Some find this elliptical, I think. I find it energizing. His insights into the human condition, and particularly the mindset of 1960s white Americans, are unsettling (discouraging?) because they're so on-target, and still applicable.

JCLBetM Jun 24, 2020

Sadly this 1963 book seems like it could be newly written today. I've always heard of James Baldwin, but this is the first bit of his writing I've read -- and it won't be the last. His honest, precise voice keeps the reader face to face with him as he shares his story. I was especially struck by the opening letter to his nephew, but this entire brief book is well worth a read.

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taylj9
Jul 07, 2018

There's no doubt that Baldwin was ahead of his time for sure. This book, written as a letter to his nephew, demonstrates what an incredible and talented mind he was.

Baldwin's writing is reflective and critical of topics such as race and religion in the United States during the civil rights era. His thoughts are original and push the reader to really consider how his philosophy fits in today's world.

Wonderful and compelling! I recommend.

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noraa88
Nov 30, 2019

It demands great spiritual resilience not to hate the hater whose foot is on your neck, and an even greater miracle of perception and charity not to teach your child to hate.

JCLEmilyD May 23, 2017

In short, we, the black and the white, deeply need each other here if we are really to become a nation--if we are really, that is, to achieve our identity, our maturity, as men and women.

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shayshortt
Oct 06, 2016

You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence: you were expected to make peace with mediocrity.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 05, 2016

...if the word integration means anything, this is what it means: that we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 05, 2016

Color is not a human or a personal reality; it is a political reality.

ellensix May 06, 2016

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.

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