Celebrated author, political activist and icon of the current Black Lives Matter movement, James Baldwin is an enigma. The interest around the great writer shows no signs of waning with the release of another biography, James Baldwin, Living in Fire by Bill V Mullen.
The author of Notes of a Native Son and Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin would have celebrated his 95th birthday this year. Renowned as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, Baldwin was especially known for his essays on the Black experience in America.
Much loved as an icon among Black Americans, Baldwin’s profile in the UK is understandably more understated. With the release of Oscar-winning director, Barry Jenkins If Beale Street Could Talk which saw Regina King win the best supporting actress Oscar gong at the 91st Academy Awards for her role in the adaptation of the novel of the same name, a whole new generation became exposed to the works of Baldwin.
The new biography, James Baldwin, Living in Fire, the first in more than 10 years of the author, draws upon newly available archive materials, emphasizing Baldwin’s radical politics, his feminist and LGBT advocacy, and his support for Palestine. It’s a celebration of the personal and political life of the great American writer who refused to shy away from the fire.
The sonorous tone of his writing is sampled heavily throughout the biography and one gets a real sense of understanding the man behind the icon. Indeed, the writings of Baldwin, who died in 1987, has been an inspiration to generations and his words continue to resonate through our culture at large.
When it came to empowering quotes and one-liners, Baldwin was the gift that kept on giving:
“Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.”
“I was not born to be what someone said I was. I was not born to be defined by someone else.”
For anyone who wants to understand the man, and what he stood for, this book is a great place to start. Mullen explores how Baldwin’s life and work channel the long history of the African-American. Fighting towards what he hoped would be a post-racial society, Baldwin’s philosophy was tragically ahead of its time.
James Baldwin, Living in Fire is an essential guide to the life and legacy of one of literature’s most important radical voices.
Buy the book here