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Sonny's Blues

4.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,138 Ratings  ·  126 Reviews
Impassioned tales of human experience that reach the soul. James Baldwin's powerful writing expressed the anger and helplessness felt by many black people in America. Born in New York's Harlem in 1924, the controversial novelist, playwright and essayist achieved overnight success with his first book Go To It on the Mountain. He died in 1987. The three stories in this selec ...more
Paperback, Penguin 60s, 90 pages
Published January 1st 1995 by Penguin (first published January 1st 1957)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Adrian
I guess Sonny's Blues is OK if you like that sort of thing. In this case, that sort of thing being nearly perfectly crafted fiction. That sort of thing being a story that's so universal and so timeless that it can be felt by any and everybody on the face of the earth. This sort of thing being the kind of story every writer should be aspiring to write before his or her days on this earth are through. Baldwin is simply the most amazing person I've never known, and if I don't read every single word ...more
Brian Yahn
Dec 08, 2015 Brian Yahn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
James Baldwin reminds us that childhood isn't rife with happiness like everyone else paints it, that--for most--life isn't a fairy-tale, but far from it. Sonny's Blues is so real it should come with a warning label.
Dag
Apr 28, 2010 Dag marked it as to-read
Because I've read this excerpt I want to read the whole book: "All I know about music is that not many people really hear it. And even then, on the rare occasions when something opens within, and the music enters, what we mainly hear, or hear corroborated, are personal, private, vanishing evocations. But the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another ord ...more
Allie
Feb 24, 2009 Allie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2009, school
Achingly beautiful and fantastically written. What I love most about this short story is how well this can be adapted into so many lives and how painful any kind of addiction can be and how tragic and life-changing it is to overcome it. It caught me off guard, how much I felt for Sonny, and how much I truly enjoyed it.
Kamil
Feb 03, 2016 Kamil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No one writes about music and solitude as Baldwin does.
Eunice A
This well-written short story is my favorite. It is at once painful and beautiful. The final scene moves me every single time that I reread it. It is perfection.
Paige
Feb 01, 2015 Paige rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues" is one of the short stories we discuss in my college class. It lends itself to the discussion of many literary terms, such as flashbacks and in medias res. More importantly, it initiates great discussions. We discuss the story in general terms, focusing our discussion on life, but we also discuss more culturally/racially-specific ideas. It's a great story, and I feel like I discover more within it during every reading.
David Hollingsworth
Picking the "best" short story ever written is a pointless endeavor. How would you even come up with criteria for that? There are so many characters, themes, and plots that can be told, in such different ways, and we all have our own preferences in each of these arenas. There's no way you could ever pick a best.

That said, if someone were to point a gun at my head and demand I tell them the best short story I'd ever read, I would pick this one.

The story is simple enough. A man and his younger bro
...more
Bruce
Oct 25, 2011 Bruce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ainsley Dobson
3.5 out of 5 stars

This definitely wasn't my favorite short story, but I still found it enjoyable. I loved the way that Baldwin described darkness as more than just an absence of light, but as a destruction of life and purity. I also appreciated the way that music and playing an instrument was described near the end of the story, it felt really realistic and put my feelings on the matter into words perfectly.
Kimberly
Nov 23, 2015 Kimberly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful story which examines the complexities of drug addiction and family relationships. Both Sonny and his older brother the unnamed narrator are handled with compassion, yet their failings and weaknesses are not hidden from the reader or themselves. In fact the awareness that both are imperfect is what makes the story so rich, all of us have siblings we don't understand yet love.

In this story, suffering is shown as the key to that understanding. Suffering transcends different poin
...more
Cynthia Haggard
Oct 07, 2014 Cynthia Haggard rated it it was amazing
James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” is about a black family in twentieth-century America, particularly about the un-named narrator and his younger brother Sonny. After time in jail for peddling heroin, Sonny returns to his brother’s home in a housing project in Harlem.

At the end of the story, Sonny, out of jail and back home with his brother, rediscovers his lifeline, the one thing that makes his life worth living, his music. But his first attempts to play piano are rocky:

And Sonny hadn’t been near
...more
Coenraad
Mar 21, 2014 Coenraad rated it it was amazing
Years ago I read two novels by James Baldwin (ANOTHER COUNTRY and GIOVANNI'S ROOM) and they impressed me greatly. This set of three short stories reignited that positive impression. In 'Sonny's blues' the difficult relationship between two brothers is described. One is a jazz musician, and Baldwin's description of the emotional impact of watching jazz being performed live is quite powerful. 'The rockpile' portrays some of the pitfalls of raising a family in the inner city. The experiences of the ...more
Cassandra Lê
One of the best short stories I've read. James Baldwin did not disappoint me in Giovanni's Room, and in Sonny's Blues he excelled himself.
ebru pessoa
Dec 28, 2015 ebru pessoa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
''Creole began to tell us what the blues were about. They were not about anything new. He and his boys up there were keeping it new, at the risk of ruin, destruction, madness, and death, in order to find new ways to make us listen. For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn't any other tale to tell, it 's the only light we've got in all this darkness''.
Valerie
Apr 27, 2016 Valerie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Sonny’s Blues is a story of opposites, fear, learning to explore, and realization. The narrator of this story grows throughout and the reader is taken on a journey of the expanding of his mind. Life is ever changing, and this is a story of how two brothers learn from each other how to evolve along with it.
With seven years difference between the narrator and Sonny, there exists a responsibility for him to watch over his younger brother. In the following quote from the narrator, the reader can see
...more
Brandon Lucknauth
This book is really inspirational! It's inspirational because as a drug addict you got to go to really bad problems physically, mentally and could effect family members relationship. As your surround by darkness, there is always a way to find lightness. Really good book to read if you are going through a hard time and you ant to change.
Walaa Kh
Aug 16, 2013 Walaa Kh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
أول مره أقرأ من الأدب الزنجي قصه جدا جميله وبالكاد تحمل معاني رائعه .. ربما لأني أعشق البيانو وأرى به تفسير الأحزان أكثر من أي آله خرى .. سوني هذا الذي يعاني ظل يكتم معاناته طوال القصه شعرت بغصه غريبه لما ياتراه لايقول لم أصغي للمعاناة بجديه الا حين كان يعزف وقتها رأيت كل هذه المعاناة ..
Kasi
Jul 26, 2015 Kasi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My third time reading this short story, and likely not my last. There is a powerful message about young African-American men who struggle to escape the molded stereotype placed on them. They are already struggling to survive a life of poverty, lacking education and temptation of gang violence and drug use. But to face social discrimination based on the color of their skin makes things worse.

This is a beautiful story of two brothers who learn to accept and love each other even if they do not rela
...more
Ted
Oct 03, 2009 Ted rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I could've written only one short story in the history of literature, or at least in the history of my personal reading experience, it would be this one, no question. An absolute masterpiece.
Anne
Easily one of my favorite short stories now. This really struck something within me. I've re-read it so many times already but its appeal never diminishes.
Lucynell
Oct 02, 2014 Lucynell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014-highlights
Sonny's Blues is the main attraction in this tiny collection. It is about two brothers in Harlem, a school teacher and a heroin addicted jazz pianist, Sonny. It's 52 pages long and pretty much flawless. The pace, the language, the cool, matter-of-fact everyday prose- as if a very close person confiding, and just as serious -almost everything works to justify the story's reputation as one of the very best in modern American literature. The other two stories are excellent as well. You could also i ...more
King
Jul 25, 2016 King rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quick read for a school assignment. Story of a heroin addict and his brother. Beautifully written and simple enough to be read quickly.
Lee McMullen
Jan 07, 2016 Lee McMullen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spring-2015
I can't believe I have lived this long without reading James Baldwin or "Sonny's Blues," a story often required reading in high school according to my professor. Needless to say, I am glad it found its way to me.
This is a beautiful story of two vastly different brothers. The interactions between the two are so realistic it almost feels as if the reader is intruding on a private conversation. Baldwin's descriptive prose flows like poetry. He is an artist of immense talent. I have already bought a
...more
William
Feb 07, 2010 William rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Far and away my favorite short story. It works on every level.
Cosimo
Aug 29, 2015 Cosimo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Un relato de belleza indescriptible y sincera sobre el amor
y la musica.Cita:" Porque, si bien nunca hay nada nuevo en la historia de cómo sufrimos, y cómo disfrutamos, y cómo podemos llegar a triunfar, siempre hay que oírla. No hay otra historia que contar, es la única luz que tenemos en toda esta oscuridad.

Y esta historia, según esa cara, ese cuerpo, esas recias manos sobre las cuerdas, adopta un aspecto diferente en cada país, alcanza nuevas profundidades en cada generación. Escuchad, parecía
...more
Kanyla
"These boys, now were living as we'd been living then, they were growing up with a rush and their heads bumped abruptly against the low ceiling of their actual possibilities. They we're filled with rage. All they really knew was two darknesses, the darkness of their lives, which was now closing in on them, and the darkness of the movies, which had blinded them to that other darkness, and in which they now, vindictively, dreamed, at once more together than they were at any other time, and more al ...more
Lizzie
You can tell when you read this that it's a heavyweight of short stories. Its flow is smooth and strong and evocative, and tight with realism that puts you in the room. The characters surprised me as they opened up into people. And I did like reading it. It has a high artistic plane, though, that didn't really excite me as it seems to usually do for other people.

I knew this was a story about a jazz musician on drugs, but really it is about brothers, from the perspective of the musician's much ol
...more
Kristy
Oct 01, 2011 Kristy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
There is lots of great imagery in this story:
- "My clothes were wet – I may have looked as though I’d been sitting in a steam bath, all dressed up, all afternoon"
- "He wanted Sonny to leave the shoreline and strike out for the deep water. He was Sonny’s witness that deep water and drowning were not the same thing "
- "…like an animal waiting to be coaxed into the light."
and there are so much more!

What I also found quite interesting and cunning were the instances were dialogue and action/setting c
...more
Victoria Patterson
Damn...
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

James Arthur Baldwin was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic.

James Baldwin offered a vital literary voice during the era of civil rights activism in the 1950s and '60s. The eldest of nine children, his stepfather was a minister. At age 14, Bal
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“For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn't any other tale to tell, it's the only light we've got in all this darkness.” 117 likes
“All I know about music is that not many people ever really hear it. And even then, on the rare occasions when something opens within, and the music enters, what we mainly hear, or hear corroborated, are personal, private, vanishing evocations. But the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it has no words, and triumphant, too, for that same reason. And his triumph, when he triumphs, is ours.” 64 likes
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