Princeton Professor Imani Perry—a prolific scholar of African American Studies whose biography of Lorraine Hansberry, Looking For Lorraine, won the 2019 PEN Biography Prize—recommends five books she considers essential to an understanding of the history of black life in America.
Arguably, no writer has ever made that demand more forcefully, passionately, or eloquently than James Baldwin. More than 33 years since his death at age 63, Baldwin continues to give voice to our times.
What is it like to pore over — and even touch — the handwriting of a world-renowned author on the lined notepaper on which she drafted her famous novels? What do you learn about the writing process from reading an author’s handwritten pen and pencil scribbles as she made changes to early drafts of work on typewritten pages? And what happens when access to those literary pages of gold is threatened by the pandemic?
The iconic American author, essayist, poet and playwright turned his life’s struggles into brilliant literary works, as relevant today as when they were written. Here’s a guide to his best books to start with, by the author of Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Today.