Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own

Crown. Sept. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9780525575320. $27. SOC SCI
The persisting problem of race lies at the core of malaise in the United States, argues Glaude (African American studies, Princeton Univ.; Democracy in Black). In this book spanning memoir, history, and cultural analysis, he asks the nation to confront the legacy of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. To clarify where the country has come from and failed to go, Glaude revisits what James Baldwin witnessed and remarked on in In the Fire Next Time (1963) and No Name in the Street (1972) works exposing dark realities of the nation’s racial ferment. Glaude excavates the rubble and ruin of the nation’s contradictions and failures, alongside a personal journey of self-discovery. Most importantly, Glaude writes about our collective responsibility to navigate disappointments, harness rage, and live with faith that good works can result in the triumph of “the better angels of our nature.”
VERDICT This is not an easy read for those wanting easy answers about race. Instead, it is a book about moral reckoning, owning up to failed choices, and making an effort to choose better ones. For all interested in uncovering how we got here, and how much further we have to go.
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