James Baldwin Archive

What Country?

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In a 2001 Penguin introduction to the novel, Colm Tóibín writes: “In Another Country, Baldwin created the essential American drama of the century.” Baldwin’s novel is rife with symbols of life in the USA: jazz, cocktails, the movies, and the idea of “making it.” It’s a story of searching

Writ in Water: Millimeters to the End of the World

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How do you write about the end of the world? Or avoiding the apocalypse? The drying up of our water or our adaptation to living with less? How do you imagine—and make real—global superstorms and cities swallowed by the sea and the hottest summers on record?

Reading in a Brown Body

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During my first week of college, at the University of Iowa, several of us students were playing cards in my dorm room, when, unrelated to the game or to the conversation, one of the other freshmen asked me, “What are you?”

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