James Baldwin Archive

My Uncle’s Books

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A year and a half ago, my uncle Chuck died unexpectedly. My family wanted me to have his books because I was a reader like he had been, and I was also a writer. And I wanted the books, especially his Library of America books.

“Why not now go towards the things I love?”: The Aftermath of Being Queer

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Some part of me broke last Sunday. I kept scrolling this week through the news articles that listed the victims of the Orlando massacre, the pain in my heart growing with each name. It seems we’re being denied time and space to mourn.

Booze, Books, and Boys: Literary Friendships Throughout History

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Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker Oscar Wilde was the son of Lady Jane, an eclectic socialite who collected artists like trophies. Bram Stoker was a frequent feature in her Saturday night salons, although the two met at a young age and were fast friends through the rest of their

Other Countries

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Sometimes I have to remind myself that the Black Writer In America is a cosmopolitan entity. The news can do that to you, even in February. Obviously there’s Harlem, and before that, there was the mass exodus from the South to the North, to experience life among people who

Grace Paley’s “Wants”: Activism and Civic Involvement for Writers

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  After years of dodging PTO meetings and volunteer opportunities, I became involved in a school overcrowding issue in my town because I didn’t want my children’s class sizes to become enormous. The problem seemed simple at first, but soon enough I was attending school committee meetings, spending hours

A Recommendation

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Just west of Houston, before you reach Texas’ most remarkable stretch of nothing, there’s a crumbling Latin diner I take my kid brother on Fridays. It is refreshingly un-Yelpable. The family’s owned it forever. They’re almost native in their darkness, and when I order two beers, they’ve pitched us

Letter to myself: On fatherhood and poems

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A published letter is a strange act. It’s like a whisper made into a loudspeaker. It’s a secret note the town’s tacked onto the city hall bulletin board after the carrier pigeon nosedived into the public square. It’s intimacy externalized. Some letters seem to speak to no one at

(Writing) Exercise: Self-compassion

I’m talking here of memory’s difficulty. Difficult not in the way I have to wrack my weak brain to remember what happened, but in the way I’m forced to face that time I let my brother, bleeding from the mouth, run the mile home alone. Difficult in the way

Back to School Special: Thoughtful Imitation

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I didn’t study creative writing as an undergraduate; it wasn’t an option. When I enrolled in the MFA program at University of Washington, what I craved more than workshop (which I’d experienced a few times in continuing education settings) was the elusive “craft” class: reading analytically not to make

The Ploughshares Round-Down: The Calvary Film and the Purpose of Art

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“[T]he barrier between one’s self and one’s knowledge of oneself is high indeed. There are so many things we would rather not know! — James Baldwin John Michael McDonagh’s film Calvary begins with priest Father James (played by Brendan Gleeson) preparing to hear an unseen confessor. The confessor reveals that as