Nobody Knows My Name
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Nobody Knows My Name

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  1,073 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Told with Baldwin's characteristically unflinching honesty, this collection of illuminating, deeply felt essays examines topics ranging from race relations in the United States to the role of the writer in society, and offers personal accounts of Richard Wright, Norman Mailer and other writers.
Paperback, 242 pages
Published December 1st 1992 by Vintage (first published 1954)
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Robert Ross
Mar 22, 2008 Robert Ross rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Baldwin should be read by anyone and everyone. Any commentary I could make would do poor service to his writing and his ideas, but the more and more I read this book the more I appreciate his voice, reasoned, calm, pleading of an understanding to the issue of race which even the most "liberated" of us only poorly grasp.

Even more, knowing this collection of essays was written nearly fifty years ago, it is hard to imagine how deeply we have sunk back into a sense of complacency regarding race issu...more
Andre
May 01, 2014 Andre rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Andre by: Vern Barnes
As a framework
This is an accurate depiction of the African-American liberation conflict. These collected musings have a superior way of giving us an understanding of America's identity crisis. Another favorite blueprint of African American life is The Narratives of Frederick Douglass. Both classics serve as a complete instrument in seeing into the underlying issues of America's oldest and most oppressed demographic group. The modern day proletarian could read the Narratives of FD and Nobody Know...more
Zack
for various reasons i have this self imposed rule that I don't give stars to books on goodreads. yet, for this book, i must break my rule because i feel the need to offset the IDIOTS who gave this book less than five stars.

this is a book about race and understanding. a kind plea for love in the face of the ignorance of the times.

i have never seen a writer who mixes so well frustration and anger with empathy love and understanding. this book is extremely courageous...he's talking about what it's...more
Dan
Oct 28, 2012 Dan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
james baldwin is one of my very favorite essayists, and there are several excellent examples of his insights included in this volume. the essay "princes and powers," for example, characterizes the hope, anxiety and ambition that characterized the early days of post-colonialism with incredible clarity. baldwin wrote it in response to a "conference of negro-african writers and artists" held in france in 1956. the essay serves as a series of extended notes about the conference, and they work as an...more
Kate
I never want to stop reading this.
It is chewy like toffee, has the sharp clarity of a handful of topaz, & still has the urgency of a horse race.
I cannot believe that anyone has ever been this insightful, smart, & compassionate about the failings of his fellow man, while still being able to see their faults in startling clarity.
Laurie Graham
"The white policeman, standing on a Harlem street corner, finds himself at the very center of the revolution now occurring in the world. He is not prepared for it -- naturally, nobody is -- and, what is possibly much more to the point, he is exposed, as few white people are, to the anguish of the black people around him. Even if he is gifted with the merest mustard grain of imagination, something must seep in. He cannot avoid observing that some of the children, in spite of their color, remind h...more
bill greene
amazingly concise & insightful, about race, about writing & art, about Wright & Faulkner & Mailer, about what it means to be an american. he lets nobody off the hook, himself included. the only thing i was really puzzled by was an essay on Andre Gide where it seems like Baldwin is bashing Gide from deep inside the closet. i found this interesting essay on line that suggests that this is a pose to lure the reader in (if i'm reading right):
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi...
Sue
This book of James Baldwin's essays really reaches out and grabs the heart and the emotions on topics that have effected many of us. I've read this book at least twice (maybe 3 times?) because his writing touches me like a violinist gently grazes the strings of a violin with his bow. The music is beautiful.
Velvetink
Read it before....brought it home to re-read and review.
Josh
No one ever wrote more clearly or more truthfully about America than James Baldwin did; this collection of essays-- a sequel of sorts to 'Notes of a Native Son'-- bears witness to that, and finds Baldwin coming to terms with this nation's past, present, and future in a resonantly moral voice. Included are some reflections on his return from European exile, his visit to the American south, his time spent in the company of Norman Mailer and Richard Wright, and more. Reading James Baldwin is comple...more
Philip
I seem to be steeped in the minority experience at the moment with regards to my literary leanings. In some way, we are all in a minority in our life ��� if even in just a brief moment in time.

That comment is not meant to take away from the cruelty, isolation and abhorrent injustices that minority cultures suffer. It is simply to say that by immersing yourself in literature that communicates deeply and profoundly the experience of someone unlike yourself, you will find that you can sympathize an...more
Labmom
In the first half of this collection of essays, Baldwin speaks eloquently and insightfully about America's shameful racial history and his efforts to escape it, by expatriating himself, then returning, to Harlem and the South, to address his inescapable identity as a black American and use that knowledge to become a better writer, his purpose and burden in life. The section was some of the best writing I've ever read, just so much packed into such short essays.

The second half were critical essay...more
Drew
Apr 17, 2014 Drew rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: essays
This stellar collection of personal essays by James Baldwin makes you realize how most conversations you have with people -- friends, co-workers, acquaintances, strangers, whatever -- just aren't deep enough. Not by half. He doesn't just discuss topics (racial segregation, self-deception, Americans abroad) and people (Faulkner, Gide, Wright, Mailer), he excavates them. He's also pretty matter-of-fact about himself -- his shortcomings and his strengths, his debts and his accomplishments.
Madeline
I love James Baldwin, and I mean that in the most sincere and least hyperbolic way possible. I also respect and admire him (and his writing), and Nobody Knows My Name is quite as good as Notes of a Native Son. They should probably print his article about Richard Wright as an appendix to editions of Wright's books (are you listening Norton Critical Editions). However, I was honestly shocked at how few women were present in these essays - it was really shockingly few. On some level I can understan...more
Brandon
This collection covers and unbelievable amount of ground, including some of the best of Baldwin's speculative philosophy on the madness of whiteness, the difficulties of conveying experience, the personal element of betrayal involved in all criticism, and his own inability except to stay the course on the artistic/political grind he has so bravely taken up.
matt

Deeply eloquent. I love his long phrases and elegantly arranged sentences. I don't know if I'm weird but each thought, description, what-have-you goes down like buttah.

I can definitely recommend this to everybody. His views are reasoned (as someone remarked here) and they have this lovely restrained quality, even as they are dealing with extremely troublesome, controversial matters. His eye ran sharp and deep. And morally he is without compromise.

His commitment to his craft and his politics do...more
Heather Cox
Changed my life. After I finished reading this book, I remember it was a summer and I was working as an assistant manager at a deli on a beach, and I had to get up super early to open up the place. And I had the craziest, wildest dreams. I woke up in the middle of the night with a general disconcernment... feeling the world was a bit off-center. That's how much this book made me think. It not only rocked my perception of the world but James Baldwin, although his writing is steeped in the explana...more
Michael Borshuk
Baldwin's second collection of essays continues his ongoing exploration of race, identity, and contemporary culture, often this time through the lens of geography. In a series of thematically tied meditations, he shows how his place in the world as an African American man varies through the various places he inhabits: Harlem, Paris, the American South. The book also features two essays about notable literary friendships: the first with his mentor Richard Wright, the second with his contemporary...more
Kenny
He has such a strong vision of the world's inequalities, some phrases really got to the bottom and truly captured the pain and difficulty that writers, blacks, and poor people deal with in America, Europe, and the world. What wide -ranging essays, though I was particularly drawn to the one on Faulkner. Baldwin thinks Faulkner didn't come out strongly enough against the plight of Black people, while acknowledging that he has done something. Baldwin has a shrewd observational wry writing style, ev...more
Paddythemic
Who said Americans can't write? This man's essays are a national treasure. Should be required reading, but of course it won't be...
Willow
James Baldwin writes long Ciceroo-esque sentences about the injustices that African-Americans faced during and prior to the integration of African-American children into white schools. He ponders questions such as "what it means to be an American" and "what is a majority" but doesn't necessarily answer his questions. I enjoyed this piece of literary criticism becuase it was personal, well written and confronted authors such as Richard Wright and filmmaker Ingmar Berghan about their views without...more
Ben
Woah. His writing puts me at ease.
D1wata
Astonishingly current
Larry-bob Roberts
Baldwin is at his best in this volume when writing about his first travels through the Southern U.S. It made me wonder what writer today could do a similar job of traveling and telling what was found.

As another reviewer pointed out, his piece on Gide's homosexuality was very problematical, as it seemed Baldwin didn't want to mention his own sexuality.

And his re-stirring of the pots of his feud-tinged friendships with Richard Wright and Norman Mailer are not particularly illuminating.
Melanie
Jul 30, 2008 Melanie is currently reading it
I normally don't read multiple books at one time, but somehow that's what I'm doing now-a-days. I wish we got to pick from different versions of book jackets so you could see what my book looks like. Anyways, this book is promising to be one that make me take measure without even being a self-help book. He wrote this book as he was leaving Europe and returning to the United States under the realization that you take your troubles with you.
Mike
This collection of essays are a look into Baldwin's perspective on American society, by way of individuals he assesses. Very much the literary celebrity, he opines on some of the great authors of the 1950's and 60's and their flaws or achievements. He seems to be from a in between literary era. I did enjoy the eulogizing Richard Wright essays the most.
Lily
Jan 10, 2013 Lily marked it as to-read
The first essay alone, "The Discovery of what it means to be an American" is full of insights that are aiding me immensely in analyzing my own feelings about being an American on the European continent. I'm happy I picked this up immediately following Native Son , I never knew Baldwin was such a brilliantly intuitive writer.
Elizabeth
Read again as I am an American living in Europe. I have a hard time with writers who I feel don't get women or gender but insist on writing about them/it. I've gotten better about tuning that out and paying attention to the other bits, another reason I wanted to thumb this book again.

Quite an illuminating book, boy-girl bits aside.
Tom O'Connor
As always, I enjoy reading Baldwin. Without a doubt, this material could seem dated, but I found it fascinating to get a glimpse into the thought processes of some of these people more than 50 years ago. Always an eyeopener to re-connect with the situation in this country only slightly more than a generation past.
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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...more
More about James Baldwin...
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“The artistic image is not intended to represent the thing itself, but, rather, the reality of the force the thing contains.” 66 likes
“Many have given up. They stay home and watch the TV screen, living on the earnings of their parents, cousins, bothers, or uncles, and only leave the house to go to the movies or to the nearest bar. "How're you making it?" on may ask, running into them along the block, or in the bar. "Oh, I'm TV-ing it"; with the saddest, sweetest, most shamefaced of smiles, and from a great distance. This distance one is compelled to respect; anyone who has traveled so far will not easily be dragged again into the world. There are further retreats, of course, than the TV screen or the bar. There are those who are simply sitting on their stoops, "stoned," animated for a moment only, and hideously, by the approach of someone who may lend them the money for a "fix." Or by the approach of someone from whom they can purchase it, one of the shrewd ones, on the way to prison or just coming out.” 53 likes
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