Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Notes of a Native Son” as Want to Read:
Notes of a Native Son
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Notes of a Native Son

4.34  ·  Rating Details ·  8,395 Ratings  ·  290 Reviews
A new edition published on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Baldwin’s death, including a new introduction by an important contemporary writer
Since its original publication in 1955, this first nonfiction collection of essays by James Baldwin remains an American classic. His impassioned essays on life in Harlem, the protest novel, movies, and African Americans abroad are a
Paperback, 192 pages
Published July 9th 1984 by Beacon Press (first published 1955)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Notes of a Native Son, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Naadhira Bigger Thomas is the protagonist of Native Son by Richard Wright. He is a black boy with high hopes but becomes a viticm of the American Racism + Law…moreBigger Thomas is the protagonist of Native Son by Richard Wright. He is a black boy with high hopes but becomes a viticm of the American Racism + Law (less)
Naadhira The first half of this book is based on critique and analysis of popular Black works such as Uncle Tom's Cabin, Carmen Jones, Ebony Magazine and…moreThe first half of this book is based on critique and analysis of popular Black works such as Uncle Tom's Cabin, Carmen Jones, Ebony Magazine and Native Son by Wright. If you haven't read or saw these references it gets kind of confusing.

The Second half of Notes of a Native Son is reflective and autobiographical. I would start with the Chapter "Notes of a Native Son" to Part Three which describes Baldwin's experience living in Europe. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Feb 28, 2017 Elyse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my 3rd James Baldwin book this year. .....first time as an audiobook.

"Notes of A Native Son", is a great intro. into other books Baldwin has written.

These 'notes' are a collection of essays -- written when Baldwin was in his 20's
during the 1940's and early 50's. It was fascinating learning about Baldwin as a young man and his experiences being Black in America through the civil rights movement-- and steps forward.
His memories about unfairness is piercing. I felt his bitterness - then
“Any writer, I suppose, feels that the world into which he was born is nothing less than a conspiracy against the cultivation of his talent.” - James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

James Baldwin was a fascinating and eloquent man, one who I would have loved to have had a conversation with. His insights into racial issues are truly phenomenal.

This is a collection of short essays about Baldwin's experience with race. In the first three essays Baldwin critiques various books and movies on black c
To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a rage almost all the time. So that the first problem is how to control that rage so that it won't destroy you.
- James Baldwin from "The Negro in American Culture", Cross Currents, XI (1961), p. 205

In his dramatic and provocative short piece Notes of a Native Son (1955) included in the ten essay volume of the same title, Baldwin connects a series of coincidental events, unifying them in a brilliantly conceived aesthetic
Jan 11, 2015 Brian rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Brian by: Rowena
Around this time last year friend Rowena and I did a buddy-read of this collection of Baldwin essays. It wasn’t the first Baldwin book that I’d read, but it was the first book of his non-fiction. It was also the first book that I’ve read that made me feel SHAME for being a white man. The full weight of my race’s mistreatment of African Americans became personal in the light of Baldwin’s writing. It doesn’t matter that I was born six years after the Civil Rights Act, that I never owned slaves or ...more
Barry Pierce
This collection of essays is a rarity by the fact that every essay is as good as the previous one. There are no duds in this collection. This is by far one of the best collections I've ever read. Baldwin's prose is just so astoundingly beautiful. I may be premature in saying this but I feel that this may be Baldwin's greatest work. A collection so important, so accessible, so unforgettable that not reading this would be an injustice to you and your bookshelf.

I was racking my brains trying to come up with the words that will show you who Baldwin is, what he writes. Then I said, “You’re silly my girl, you can of course let him speak for himself”.

What he has to say on seeing reality and working with it. How the present is a result of the past and how by denying the past, we deny the reality of us.
It began to seem that one would have to hold in the mind forever two ideas which seemed to be in opposition. The first idea was acceptance, the acceptance, t
Read with a group of friends in conjunction with a viewing of the Oscar-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro . Experiencing both film and essay collection in tandem, what kept coming to mind over and over was Jan Kott’s influential phrase “Shakespeare, our contemporary,” which forwards the idea that every generation discovers some aspect of the Bard that seems to speak specifically and almost peculiarly to them, making him feel continuously contemporaneous. Well, I couldn’t get the revised ...more
Miroku Nemeth
Feb 20, 2013 Miroku Nemeth rated it it was amazing
I just finished James Baldwin's "Notes of a Native Son" yesterday. Published in 1955, it has lost none of its relevance on many levels, and one of these is his argument that the representations of African Americans in and through literature and in movies and the role in which devices such as the "protest novel" are used to assuage liberal guilt and really do not bring about true societal change and instead foster a false sense of understanding and identification that still maintains the "otherne ...more
Mar 17, 2017 Liz rated it it was amazing
Baldwin was a genius. Everything he wrote was sheer brilliance. No other review is necessary.
Ken Moten
"When I was told, 'it takes time,' when I was young I was being told it will take some time before a Black person can be treated as a human being here, but it will happen. We will help to make it happen. we promise you.

Sixty years of one man's life is a long time to deliver on a promise, especially considering all the lives preceding and surrounding my own.

What has happened, in the time of my time, is the record of my ancestors. No promise was kept with them, no promise was kept with me, nor can
Most people are not naturally reflective any more than they are naturally malicious, and the white man prefers to keep the black man at a certain human remove because it is easier for him to thus preserve his simplicity and avoid being called to account for crimes committed by his forefathers, or his neighbors. He is inescapable aware, nevertheless, that he is in a better position in the world than black men are, nor can he quite put to death the suspicion that he is hated by black men therefore
Apr 15, 2016 Maya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.

In the foreword to this collection of essays Edward P. Jones writes:
And so he continues on, page after page, offering light and understanding and a ruthless insistence not so much that he is correct with his vision of matters, but that to ignore his side of things is to see only a partial picture th
May 30, 2010 Bruce rated it it was amazing
The focus of these essays is, of course, racism in America, and since they were written in the late 40s and early 50s, one might expect them to be dated. Baldwin, however, has sufficient breadth of vision to transcend topicality to make pertinent and scintillating observations about the human condition generally. Thus, in the first essay, "Everybody's Protest Novel," he notes that fitting into a racial stereotype is but one instance of the societal categorization from which "we endlessly struggl ...more
Jul 24, 2015 Earnest rated it it was amazing
Earlier this year I read Richard Wright's 'Native Son.' A novel that, unarguably, blew me away. Sometime before or after that, I vaguely recall, I stumbled upon an essay collection by a man named James Baldwin called 'The Fire Next Time.' It was inevitable that reading those two books would lead me here, writing this review.

This is a fine collection of essays. I knew, having read The Fire Next Time, that Baldwin was a terrific writer, but this, for me, set him apart as one of my favorites. One
Mar 12, 2013 Brett rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommend
James Baldwin on visiting his dying father in the hospital:

"The moment I saw him I knew why I had put off this visit so long. I had told my mother that I did not want to see him because I hated him. But this was not true. It was only that I had hated him and that I wanted to hold on to this hatred. I did not want to look on him as a ruin: it was not a ruin I had hated. I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, that they
Dec 23, 2012 Jamie rated it it was amazing
Oh, just stunning. I've finally settled on Baldwin that I can unreservedly adore. "Another Country" annoyed me; "Giovanni's Room" I found frequently beautiful but ideologically frustrating (and sometimes uneven, stylistically). This, this, this! just incredible front to back. The title essay offers a powerful account of Baldwin's sense of coming to identity; his literary disputes are whipsmart and funny and important; and his essays on Paris among the v best writing I've read on expatriate forma ...more
Huma Rashid
May 15, 2011 Huma Rashid rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classic
One of my favorite books. Baldwin is AMAZING.
Mar 10, 2015 Helen rated it it was amazing
So engaging I read it twice over the weekend/beginning of the week. He is acerbic, sometimes bitterly so, but oddly optimistic. I read the '84 ed. where he writes about the difference in age (31 when it was published and 60 when this ed came out) and was struck by what he wrote then, with more experience and wisdom accrued, about change. Plus I highlighted the shit out of his essays, observational gems in every selection. And the The Melodeers account of their "Journey to Atlanta" remains ludicr ...more
Feb 25, 2017 Amélie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Americans, unhappily, have the most remarkable ability to alchemize all bitter truths into an innocuous but piquant confection and to transform their moral contradictions, or public discussion of such contradictions, into a proud decoration, such as are given for heroism on the field of battle. (Many Thousands Gone, p. 31)

James Baldwin n’a clairement pas de patience pour les niaiseries bien intentionnées. Ça s’affirme dès les premiers essais de Notes of a Native Son : en mode incantatoire, cingl
This book is a cultural critique. He criticizes as well as critiques. Why the film Carmen Jones was exploitative and just plain awful. LIfe for poor artists in Paris in the 1950's according to Baldwin was expensive, exploitative, and terrible. He is jailed for days or maybe weeks after an acquaintance gives him a sheet stolen from a hotel. Jeeezzzz. He has no idea what is going on and French prisons at that time were - yes - awful. Apparently his father was also pretty awful, sigh.

These are essa
Cindy Leighton
"It was the Lord when knew of the impossibility every parent in the room faced: how to prepare the child for the day when the child would be despised and how to create in the child - by what means? - a stronger antidote to this poison than one had found for oneself."

James Baldwin never disappoints- his writings are so powerful and he conveys so much pain with so few words. Written in 1955 they could have been written today. This collection of essays is written from Baldwin's home in Paris and re
Feb 05, 2016 Melissa rated it liked it
I struggled with this book of essays for a few reasons, which disappointed me because I really did want to be blown away by it. One of the big barriers for me was the first section of the book, which is 3 (if I remember correctly) review of books and movies that I haven't seen or read. Not having the context for these works pretty much made it useless for me to read them. The second and third sections of the book focus more on Baldwin's direct experiences, so at least I could follow the personal ...more
Jan 31, 2017 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Notes of A Native Son" is a collection of essays published in 1955, some dating back a few years prior, so it is worth remembering that this a young man (mid-20s) flexing his literary muscle in the wake of a successful first novel. He is not quite on any side in a polemic because of his certainty that his perspective on everything is uniquely correct.
We start with a trio of reviews, two novels and film, which examine the problems with "protest novels." "Native Son" has retained a more distingui
Jul 25, 2011 Tim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african-studies
James Baldwin was one of the rarest of writers in the 20th century. Not only was he black and homosexual when it was not popular to be either (is it even acceptable to be so now?), but he is genuine, honest and addresses the toughest, most uncomfortable issues in the black as well as white worlds. He criticizes Richard Wright's "Native Son" (which does happen to be one of my favorite novels), but in other places has admitted his continued admiration for Wright, even after his harsh criticism. Ba ...more
Bob Schnell
May 27, 2014 Bob Schnell rated it really liked it
"Notes of A Native Son" is a collection of James Baldwin's essays up to the mid-1950's. Subjects are as diverse as a criticism of the movie "Carmen Jones" to his tale of Christmas spent in a Parisian jail. The common thread, of course, is his take on what it means to be black in America (or a Black American in other countries). Not only do the themes still resonate today, but his observations and writing style could be mistaken for a much more recent publication. The essay that stands out as my ...more
David Hilton
Apr 27, 2016 David Hilton rated it it was ok
Oh man. This book is hard, a slog. I get why it is important. Baldwin's sharp perspectives on race in America and the world are insightful, if filled with rage. But, he just isn't writing for me. His voice comes off as aloof, detached, overly erudite, you know, hard to access for no good reason. Plus, he trashed Richard Wright's Native Son (along with almost anything else you can think of). Count me in Wright's camp. Native Son is a masterpiece. Notes on a Native Son is not. Or, it is, but it is ...more
Robert Arl
Feb 05, 2017 Robert Arl rated it it was amazing
A timely re-read. James Baldwin's essays written in the early 1950's are brutally honest reflections on the black experience and black/white coexistence in America, which Baldwin sees as unique in the greater world. This uniqueness no longer exists in our present world due in large part to the ever increasing number of stateless people who must be assimilated into once near homogeneous cultures or be labeled as dangerous and expendable by the same.
Nov 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
These brilliant essays, which ultimately form a profound meditation on what it means to be "native" to this complex and brutal country we call America, were originally published in the 1940s and 1950s. Sadly, it came as no surprise to me how timely and important this collection remains today. Baldwin raises many important questions that both demand and deserve discussion, exactly the type of challenging discourse that, if more frequently practiced, could bend this nation in the direction of just ...more
Lee Anne
May 31, 2008 Lee Anne rated it it was amazing
This is a great collection of Baldwin's essays. It's only semi-autobiographical, because he seems to veer away from the specifics of his home life a little bit, at least in the beginning (which was pretty damn rough). It's definitely not a memoir, as it's advertised (at least not in our current sense of the word). All of his essays have a point about race relations in America, so anything that he writes about his own experiences in Europe eventually end up back to why American blacks and whites ...more
Originally published in 1955, James Baldwin's first nonfiction book has become a classic. These searing essays on life in Harlem, the protest novel, movies, and Americans abroad remain as powerful today as when they were written.

"He named for me the things you feel but couldn't utter. . . . Jimmy's essays articulated for the first time to white America what it meant to be American and a black American at the same time."
-Henry Louis Gates, Jr
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Please add cover to book 3 15 Mar 03, 2017 08:37AM  
Notes of a Native Son - James Baldwin - reading Maya+Sofia 13 May 2016 65 7 May 19, 2016 01:02PM  
  • Shadow and Act
  • Some of Us Did Not Die: New and Selected Essays
  • The Outsider
  • Black Looks: Race and Representation
  • Selected Essays
  • A Child of the Century
  • The Contours of American History
  • The Sweet Science
  • Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson
  • Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination
  • Manchild in the Promised Land
  • An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy Vol. 1
  • An Autobiography
  • Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America
  • The Promise of American Life
  • Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays
  • The Liberal Imagination: Essays on Literature and Society
  • Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
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. He was the eldest of nine children; his stepfather was a minister. At age
More about James Baldwin...

Share This Book

“I don't like people who like me because I'm a Negro; neither do I like people who find in the same accident grounds for contempt. I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. I think all theories are suspect, that the finest principles may have to be modified, or may even be pulverized by the demands of life, and that one must find, therefore, one's own moral center and move through the world hoping that this center will guide one aright. I consider that I have many responsibilities, but none greater than this: to last, as Hemingway says, and get my work done.
I want to be an honest man and a good writer.”
“In overlooking, denying, evading this complexity--which is nothing more than the disquieting complexity of ourselves--we are diminished and we perish; only within this web of ambiguity, paradox, this hunger, danger, darkness, can we find at once ourselves and the power that will free us from ourselves. It is this power of revelation that is the business of the novelist, this journey toward a more vast reality which must take precedence over other claims.” 21 likes
More quotes…