Thursday, August 20, 2015

James Baldwin: The Last Interview and Other Conversations

I must sadly admit that I have not been a student of James Baldwin... I know, I know, I Know, but I think that I tried to read Go Tell It On the Mountain, and did not like it, and sort of put James on the back burner.... Very bad decision!

My readers, never, never read one or two books that you do not like by a writer and throw the author in the trash can.... Very Bad Decision.... I was not fond of Jesmyn Ward’s first two books, but I fell madly in love with Men We Reaped! So, happy that I did not give up on Jesmyn.

Many of the books that I have been reading lately from Between the World and Me, to How to Kill Yourself and Others in American, and Losing My Cool, the writers have mentioned James Baldwin, and I thought to my myself that I must give Baldwin some more of my time!

A friend mentioned that I read The Last Interview, and of course I did....

This book is four interviews with Baldwin with one done in 1961, two in 1984, and one while he was dying in France in 1987.

Let me leave you with a few quotes:

1961 Interview
“You have to decide who you are, and force the world to deal with you, not its idea of you."
“Time is aways now.  Everybody who has ever thought about his own life knows this. You don’t make resolutions about something you are going to do next year. NO! You decide to write a book: the book may be finished in twenty years from now, but you’ve got to start it now."
“I began to see this country for the first time. If I hadn’t gone away, I would never have been able to see it; and if I was unable to see it, I would never have been able to forgive it."
“The only thing that really unites all Black men everywhere is, as far as I can tell, the fact that White men are on their necks."
“Assuming that sanity..... assuming that humanity itself, the humanity in all of us, will triumph, there will be, as you say, no White nation and no Black nation but nations of people."

May 1984 Interview 
“There are two things we have to do -love each other and raise our children. We have to do that! The alternative, for me, would be suicide."
“But, I do know that, too that some of the evils that we live with are really produced by the society we live in, by the choices that society offers. I’m not trying to get anybody off the hook when I say that."
June 1984 Interview
Go Tell It on the Mountain, for example, is not about church, and Giovanni is not really about homosexuality. It’s about what happens to you if you’re afraid to love anybody. Which is much more interesting than the question of homosexuality.” 
“I loved a few people and they loved me. It had nothing to do with these labels. Of course, the world has all kinds of words for us (homosexuals). But that’s the world’s problem."
November 1987: The Last Interview
“It’s a great shock to realize that you’ve been so divorced. So, divorced from who you think you are - from who you really are. Who you think you are, you’re not at all."
“ I was not born to be what someone said I was. I was not born to be defined by someone else, but by myself, and myself only."
These are just a few of the wonderful thoughts of James Baldwin, and if you want to know his thoughts about, homosexuality, Toni Morrison, Miles Davis, Richard Wright, Fannie Lou Hamer, Dr. King, Malcolm X, Ralph Ellison and several other people, than you must read this very short collection of interviews that spoke to my heart, and I know that they will speak to yours.

I just can’t let Baldwin go, so I will be reading a collection of his essays called Nobody Knows My Name.

My place in this world is becoming clearer.... Thanks for taking this journey with me!

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