Black Boy
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Black Boy

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  25,944 ratings  ·  994 reviews
Richard Wright grew up in the woods of Mississippi amid poverty, hunger, fear, and hatred. He lied, stole, and raged at those around him; at six he was a "drunkard," hanging about in taverns. Surly, brutal, cold, suspicious, and self-pitying, he was surrounded on one side by whites who were either indifferent to him, pitying, or cruel, and on the other by blacks who resent...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published March 27th 2007 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1945)
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·Karen·
Professor Amy Hungerford points out in her Open Yale lectures:
http://academicearth.org/lectures/ame...
that there is a certain amount of well-founded doubt as to the absolute accuracy of this work as an autobiography. Wright, however, does not claim this as his life, but rather as a Record of Youth and Childhood, the tale of a Black Boy growing up in the Southern States between the two World Wars. Thus a generic life. There can be no doubt whatsoever about its emotional authenticity. I read this...more
Kristen
I felt something shift in me as a reader as I neared the end of Wright’s autobiography. Where he began relating his experiences of, and delineating his theoretical disagreements with, the Communist party in Chicago, my experience of reading became less interactive, less organic, and to some degree, less interesting. I think I stopped making personal connections to the material. I was no longer reading to discover what feelings, ideas, or insights his story would incite in me. Instead, I began en...more
brian
i’m in the minority (minority. heh heh.) in finding this book superior to ellison’s invisible man. it might not be as daring, perhaps, might lack the touch of modernist irony, but sometimes you shove all that aside and recognize a great book for just being a great book -- something i defy all y’all in saying ellison’s book is not!


the other night a friend told me this joke:

a black guy, a jew, and a mexican walk into a bar.
the bartender says, “get the fuck out!”

now it’s all in the delivery, but...more
Emily Loeb
Black Boy is the book that made me fall in love with reading. I was in Italy with my family on spring break and I was required to read Black Boy for my english class. This book pulled me in. I remember walking around Italy with my nose in the book, barely looking up. I made my step-dad stop in a bookstore so I could buy more books by Richard Wright. I read Native Son next. As Black Boy is Wright's autobiography, I was enthralled with Richard Wright's life and how he was able to escape the hardsh...more
Kris
During some sort of standardized test in high school one of our reading comprehension sections included a section of this book. It was the section where young Richard Wright (living in Alabama?) wanted to read libraby books, but couldn't check books out of the library because he was black. Wright went to the one person in the office where he worked as a janitor who might be sympathetic--because the man was Catholic and also suffered from slights from the other white Southerners. Wright had to as...more
Maureen Brunner
Every so often I will personally discover a story (not just "know" about it), written before my time, that opens up a world of enlightenment and gives answers to questions I didn't realize I had. Black Boy, the autobiographical memoir of author Richard Wright, is one of those novels. Originally, Black Boy was published as two separate novels (Black Boy and American Hunger). The first dealing with his childhood through late adolescents in the south. The second begins with Wright realizing his dre...more
Michelle
Richard Wright grew up in the woods of Mississippi amid poverty, hunger, fear, and hatred. He lied, stole, and raged at those around him; at six he was a "drunkard," hanging about in taverns. Surly, brutal, cold, suspicious, and self-pitying, he was surrounded on one side by whites who were either indifferent to him, pitying, or cruel, and on the other by blacks who resented anyone trying to rise above the common lot.

Black Boy is Richard Wright's powerful account of his journey from innocence t...more
Samantha Lazar
This book is an autobiography about Richard Wright's life. He grew up in the Jim Crow South in terrible living conditions. He was separated from his mother many times because she could not afford to provide for Richard and his brother, he was physically beaten, and verbally abused because of his race. Some parts of the book move rather slow, but for the most part, I really enjoyed reading it. It is so sad to see how people were treated because of their skin color. Ignorant people need to learn c...more
Jerri Brissette
By the second page of this book, I had formed a distaste for this little boy. I don't care what the age of the child, the frightful action of this one seemed as if it could only result from stupidity, not innocense. Shortly thereafter, his callus harming of an innocent kitten furthered my dislike. However, as a great many children do, he matured not so badly after all. I must respect Richard Wright for the honesty with which he tells his story, not leaving out those early, disturbing actions whi...more
Synesthesia
Richard Wright wrote in a poetic style about his miserable childhood complete with starvation, racism, bitter religion and people hitting him over stupid things like saying things they didn't like. He doesn't fit into the world he lives in. He questions it and makes those around him angry as a result. It's a fascinating book about race relationships that shows how much things have changed since the times Wright grew up in.
Christopher Trader
Feb 06, 2014 Christopher Trader rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
I must admit, right from the start, that this will be a very poor review. It will be a poor review because such a work of wonder and artistry could never be properly praised with mere words alone. I fear I lack the talent to even come near doing justice to the education this book has given me. To the depth of philosophy and emotion drawn forth by Wright's writing.

I want to start by sharing why I chose to read this work. Many years ago I purchased a copy of Wright's work, Native Son. I don't rem...more
Longfellow
I chose to read Black Boy specifically as a follow up to Gone With the Wind. In GWtW, I noticed in spots the narrator revealed a certain attitude, a perspective toward blacks that, while (I assumed) honest and sincere, struck me as prejudiced, even perhaps contemptuous at times.

Within this perspective was an assumption that the narrator—3rd person limited—knew what blacks, including freed slaves, thought and felt. To be fair, this perspective also included a sincere (but conditional) love and l...more
Newengland
Breezy read with brutal content, Black Boy chronicles what life was like for blacks in the Deep South of the 1920's. Wright's is a straightforward style, pulling no punches, quite modern in its tone and style mixing frank narrative and dialogue. The product of a broken home, the striving Wright had constant trouble with his religious family. He resisted assimilation into the church and experienced his share of violence.

As he grows and looks for work, the reader is witness to case after case of S...more
Wesley
Richard Wright lead and enduring life of cultural strain and endless perseverance. Put in the worst of situations without knowing. Relying on his conscious and “hidden will” he would push on. He had the love of his mother but during a time the country took guidance to really survive in. Losing a father figure before his father had even left his family would be the cause of this. To live during the time that Wright did and rise above the nations indiscretions, meant you become tough mentally and...more
Jim
I hovered back and forth between 3 and 4 stars for a few minutes and chose 4 so I would not look like I was a racially-biased reader, and it occurred to me that much of what Wright explores in this autobiography must still be in play.

The events of the book cover Wright's life from about age four in 1912 Mississippi through the mid-1930's in Chicago. Throughout, Wright recounts his endless failures to truly understand people - black and white - and his inability to be understood in return. His d...more
Aaron
May 19, 2014 Aaron rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
A frightening, often times disturbing, look at the life of a young black child in the Depression-era South. Richard Wright's experiences, as detailed in this book, should be discomforting, at worst, to anyone who reads them. If you're not clearly outraged by his treatment at the hands of family, friends, bosses, etc. you have no heart. There were times when I felt so strongly about his mistreatment for a variety of actions I wanted to put the book away. Unfortunately, I think the country as a wh...more
John Egbert
The best autobiography I've ever read. I still haven't finished American Hunger yet, but I hope I do. Richard Wright is a wonderful story teller and I wish he was alive so I could write fan-mail. His progression from child to adult was perfect, and I don't think I got bored throughout this entire novel.
Carol
Oct 06, 2007 Carol rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: urban-romance
This books is well written but a classic autobiography of a black boy's journey during the Jim Crow South. I loved this book because it was easy to read, it takes you back in time, intense, and based on literary history. This book is a must have as a collection on a bookshelf.
Jd Gieson
Black Boy is a very interesting and event filled story. Richard Wright accounts for all the difficult and discrimatory situations he had to face and all the racial slurs he was called day in and day out during the early 20th century. He does not try to hide the vague language or sweeten up his story, he tells it how it was. The book is divided into two sections, one as a young boy in the south and then him grown up in Chicago. Wright's desire to read began at a young age and he would constantly...more
Jacob
If I had to describe this book in a single word, I would use deep. I enjoyed the book a lot; I noticed as I read through it that I would walk away feel a little less judgemental, but a little more disgusted with society. I felt it exposed the irony of our culture and how the harsh Jim Crow laws were not necessarily confined to the south as seems to be a common belief.
The book begins with an anecdote involving Richard burning his family's house down, but then jumps right into his father leavin...more
Megan
This book was simply amazing. It had a story unlike any other. Although it may not have had a happy ending, Richard's persistence and perseverance captured my heart in this memoir that will play with your emotions. This book tells the tale of a young boy growing through to adulthood having many problems, all centered around family and racism. I liked this book because I thought it was highly relatable. Many kids grow up with having family problems, and they go home each day to a place where they...more
Alexis Noel
I think that this book was very well written and greatly detailed. its about Richard Wright and his childhood. Ever since he was so little, he lived in a life of poverty where he and his little brother would go days without eating. his relationship with his older father is something i could never imagine. where it got to the point that you felt so isolated by your own family. him, his little brother, his mother and father lived in a little home in Tennessee. Soon their father leaves and doesnt c...more
Larry Bassett
It seems that I have known about this book all of my adult life. The book is 68 years old; I am 67. It is time that I read Black Boy. I grew up white in the racially segregated North at about the time the book was first published. Richard Wright was born black in 1908 in rural Mississippi.

The book was published in a shortened version by the Book-of-the-Month Club, the first BOMC novel by a black author. But some changes were made to make the book more acceptable to the majority white BOMC audien...more
Chinook
As an introduction to the life in the Jim Crow South, this is an incredible work. Many people say they found the second section about communists in Chicago boring, but I actually quite enjoyed it.

A few things struck me. First off, Richard Wright sort of presents himself as a jerk. Everywhere he goes he meets people and none of them have any inclining of the truth, except for him. A group of actors in a theater troupe don't like the play he wants to stage, they are stupid. The communists don't ag...more
Doug
How. How is this book possible. How can I find my white 90s childhood in Maryland reflected so clearly in recollections of a black, indigent childhood in Jim Crow Mississipi. And yet how can I still see Wright's bloody picture painted so clearly, of the gulf across race and time and geography that he, along with thousands of others, had to travel in order to achieve what little self-actualization America would allow them.

How can Wright be so lightning-fisted in his portraits of the abuse of blac...more
Caroline
Black Boy was fine, fairly interesting. Stories of his childhood in the South. Then I started reading part II. I'm not really into the inner workings of the communist party, and reading about Wright's simultaneous love and disillusionment with it wasn't really my thing.

What really bothered me (and ruined the book for me, especially in part II) was Wright's style: he tells the reader something that happened to him, then interprets it for him or her. He leaves no room for the reader's own interpr...more
Paul Aslanian
Solfrid had for at least 45 years urged me to read this book. I put it off for all those years thinking it was just another bleeding heart liberal book which was intended to make me feel guilty and/or love blacks. Well, I should have read this book 45 years ago. It is an amazing story of Richard Wright's life as a poor black kid growing up in a poor southern small town. Some of my take aways:

--I was amazed at how violent his family members were to each other--lots of slapping, hitting, spanking

-...more
Jesse LP
According to Zinsser’s and Genslinger’s review on what a good memoir is, I think that the book Black Boy by Richard Wright is okay memoir but generally not a very good memoir because his life is an mediocre life for most black Americans during that period of time. This memoir does not create meaning by imposing order on events as Zinsser states for a good memoir, yet he only talks about his life and calls for the reader’s and wants them to pity him. Richard Wright does not write something in whi...more
Carole
Richard Wright's autobiography had the same stunning impact on me as it did when I first read it 40 years ago. His account of his childhood in the South is gripping in its portrayal of poverty, ignorance, and hopelessness.

How Wright managed to educate himself through extensive reading despite the very negative attitude toward reading in his family was an unbelievable accomplishment for which I feel great admiration. How he became a successful writer ("Black Boy" was chosen as a Book-of-the-Mont...more
Alison
This is an incredible, powerful book. Wright tells us the story of his childhood growing up in the South in the 20s, and then in the second half, his experiences later in Chicago. It's not as brutal as you'd expect - it's far worse. Yet, Wright possesses amazing depth of thought and self-reflection, and manages to weave a story through the brutality of both his personal life and the life of all African-Americans in this time period that is compelling.

There are points in the second half when the...more
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9657
Richard Nathaniel Wright was an African-American author of powerful, sometimes controversial novels, short stories and non-fiction. Much of his literature concerned racial themes. His work helped redefine discussions of race relations in America in the mid-20th century.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
More about Richard Wright...
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“Whenever my environment had failed to support or nourish me, I had clutched at books...” 2187 likes
“I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of the hunger for life that gnaws in us all.” 1105 likes
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