The Hidden Wound
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The Hidden Wound

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  267 ratings  ·  46 reviews
With the expected grace of Wendell Berry comes The Hidden Wound, an essay about racism and the damage it has done to the identity of our country. Through Berry’s personal experience, he explains how remaining passive in the face of the struggle of racism further corrodes America’s potential. In a quiet and observant manner, Berry opens up about how his attempt to discuss r...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published May 18th 2010 by Counterpoint (first published December 3rd 2005)
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Bri
I love Wendell Berry-pretty much all of his writing, whether its his poetry or his fiction or his essays rocks my world. The Hidden Wound is not my favorite work but its in the top three for sure. Berry wrote this during winterbreak at Stanford in 1969-when student riots were breaking out around campus and students were voicing the need for a Black Studies program. In his typical style Berry unflinchingly lays out the tangled web of race relations in this country by focusing on the role of black...more
Jeff
After reading a bit about racism and U.S. race history in college textbooks, it was fascinating to read Wendell Berry's thoughts on the subject. His words were personal and refreshing. Being white himself, I don't think I can say he understands the issue completely (I don't think he would say that, either), but he seems to be keenly aware of the limits of his knowledge and describes every nook and cranny of knowledge within those limits. That is, I think he expresses his experience of race from...more
Nick
In order to provide a meaningful summary of this book, I need to fill you in on some details about my classwork, so please indulge a brief digression. The last ten weeks of classes were fairly typical for me—a few intense academic courses and a few that, while necessary for my education, didn’t seem to demand as much from me. One of these less important classes, “Pastoral Practice and Racism,” was in my schedule because one class I had initially enrolled in was intended to satisfy a cultural req...more
Carl Brush
No one, but no one exemplifies the phrase “Less is more” than Wendell

Berry. In The Hidden Wound, an extended essay (100 pages and change) written in 1968-69, with an afterword in 1988, he takes on the subject of black-white race relations in America. He begins with KY boyhood memories of a couple of workers on his grandfather’s farm, then attempts to extrapolate from his experience with them to the inner lives of American blacks and whites in history and the future. He’s on risky ground, and his...more
Naeem
Recommended to me by Alex Lima, this book does at least two things with great efficiency and poetry. It gives a sense of what whites lose from racism. Berry does this by telling from his childhood in which a black man and black women play pivotal roles in developing his sense of justice. It also shows how this wound is systematic -- infecting the church and other institutions.

For these two aspects alone, it probably deserves 4 or 5 stars. But since I am looking for material just like this, I fo...more
Tim
The Hidden Wound is a Wendell Berry essay on race. It is part memoir that recalls his family's complicity in slavery and reflects especially on the two black laborers on his grandfather's farm as he grew up, and part reflection on the problem of race in American history. Berry remembers with real love the laborer Nick and their interactions while exposing the twisted values of white culture. "We knew and took for granted: marriage without love; sex without joy; drink without conviviality; birth...more
hilaryhail
It is surprising to me that I have not heard of this book sooner. It is really profound in its ability to acknowledge that whites also experience the costs of racism. It does the great Wendell Berry work of reminding us about the land and our connection to it, but Berry explicitly highlights how historically African Americans have been "hired" to tend to the land more closely than whites. He argues that such a configuration - influenced by the massive growth of capitalism - cost us a connection...more
Claire Monahan
This book followed my very eye-opening reading of James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time, so I am bound to make comparisons to the two works. Baldwin was radical and cheeky; Berry is nostalgic and at times bitter. The two present a very interesting dialogue on the state of racism in America, and both works are written at the time that the Civil Rights movement was in full swing.

Berry had me until the last 35 pages. I was startled by his revelations, and as a white person who grew up in the South, I...more
Tracy
Mar 19, 2008 Tracy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who was moved or disturbed by Obama's speech on Race in America
I am very glad and blessed to be reading this at this moment in American history, when Obama can stand up and have the country's attention about the importance of race in America and deliver such a nuanced and thought provoking speech. I wish I could hear what Wendell Berry thinks about it.

Beyond that though, this book, like most of Mr. Berry's books, is set in my hometown/county of Henry County. I love hearing about the history, natural, cultural and otherwise of a place that, while beautiful,...more
Patti
Wow, Wendell Berry wrote this book when he was only 34. At the Wisconsin Book Festival, Rick Bass said it was his favorite Wendell Berry book. It is an amazing chronicle of a man looking honestly at his beliefs and his culture regarding racism and trying to wipe away the cob webs and face the real life effects on blacks and whites alike.

This book was published in 1970 and I don't think our culture has yet faced the "wound" as Berry tries to in this book as illustrated by the reaction to Barack...more
Pam
Like much of Berry's writing, I'm not sure what to do with this, but I like it. It was written a long time ago (68-69 - when I was busy getting born, with an afterward from 1988)

There are many times when I wonder if he's entirely missing something, or if perhaps I'm missing what he's saying. He uses "the N word" (but simply writes it, which I just can't) freely, though certainly not (intentionally) aggressively. I think I found this so distracting that it was a problem, but I think I also get h...more
Jimmy
"Granting the frailty, and no doubt the impermanence, of modern technology as a human contrivance, the man who can keep a fire in a stove or on a hearth is not only more durable, but wiser, closer to the meaning of fire, than the man who can only work a thermostat."--Wendell Berry

This book was first published in 1970 with a new afterword in 1988. It's an extended biographical essay on race and poverty and other things.

He remembers inviting the black hired hand on his farm to his birthday party....more
Brenda
Wendell Berry is a favorite. This book is a bit different from others, more personal. I see the seeds of much of his body of works that come after this. Thought provoking. Once again, I am very grateful for Wendell Berry and how his writing changes me.
Beth
I actually read this book because I am writing an essay on the importance of mankind's relationship with the land. I love the connection made between this concept and racism. My perspective has been deepened and improved.
Libby
This is an interesting look at race based on a white Southerner viewing his childhood relationship with two older African Americans on his grandfather's farm. My favorite quote: "I am trying to establish the outlines of an understanding of myself in regard to what was fated to be the continuing crisis of my life, the crisis of racial awareness -- the sense of being doomed by my history to be, if not always a racist, then a man always limited by the inheritance of racism, condemned to be always c...more
Noel Straight
It's one of those book that will make you rethink many of the things you thought you knew. I've already read it three times and will probably keep reading it throughout my life.
Drick
I had never read a Wendell Berry book, but I knew lots of folks who had, so I was interested in his take on racism, which is the focus of this book. Berry has an itereting thesis that racism was an outgrowth of capitialist expansion and both were an attempt to distance oneself from the land and manual labor. Beginning with reflections from his childhood growing up in segregated Kentucky, he provides some unique insights into the nature of black-white relastionships and its connection to urbaniza...more
Matt Champagne
Got a job on a black sit-com and read this book. Don't remember if I liked it or not.
Darrell Vandervort
Written in 1968-69, Berry examines racism through the eyes of his childhood in a former slave owning family which still employed African Americans to work the farm. It is a perceptive understanding of the damage done to both sides. The Afterward, written in 1989, is frighteningly prophetic of our current condition. Very timely for today.
Deborah
This book had an interesting take on the issue of racism in the US. Berry recalls stories of slaves he knew growing up and the unspoken racial divisions that existed. Although a little outdated, the main principles of the book hold true-- racism hurts all those involved.
Kristi
I read The Hidden Wound in one sitting. It is an essay tackling a subject matter -- racism -- that departs from the usual themes of Berry's writings. A bulk of the essay contains personal reflections of his relationship to black servants that worked in his childhood home, which are interesting of themselves. While this is not his strongest essay, his observations about racism in America, and the consequences of the racial divides in America on our relationship to each other and the land are valu...more
Travis
After finishing this book I had a couple of strong impressions. First, that Wendell Berry lived a pleasant, pastoral childhood, and second that he really took some time to thoughtfully explore race relations and try to understand why they are where they are. He had one thesis that struck me as genuine: the ideal (hardly unique to America) of trying to get rich quick. I don't know of too many books on racism that are written by white authors (not that I've looked either) but this one was very wel...more
Kristine
I had just finished a class on structural inequality and diversity and a friend recommended this book as a sort of antidote. It was just the ticket. Berry's reflection on his childhood relationship to two black "servants" is profound and beautiful. He talks about the losses whites have experienced because of slavery. In particular, a direct connection to the land and any semblance of culture outside of industrialized consumption. I highly recommend his Agrarian Essays as well. The guy's brillian...more
Cate White
Wendell Berry, the scholar-farmer, thinks about racism in America as an outgrowth of our problematic relationship to nature, rather than a disconnected societal ill. This may seem like a stretch, but Wendell Berry can think real good and he makes it make perfect sense and makes you feel really sad about it all, but happy too cuz at least Wendell Berry understands and was willing to spend all that time writing it down. (I turned my paragraph dumb because I was weary of trying write good.)
Gabrielle
How a white Southerner addressed racism in the Sixties...and with the re-emergence of the book in the Eighties through the auspices of the late, lamented North Point Books...he's addressed it for all time. As a friend told me, He's got it. He's one of the few white people to 'get it,' too. I'm sure Berry's views have widened since. This is a brave, honest book from someone who appreciates community and the land.
Durren & Jonna Anderson
Mar 13, 2008 Durren & Jonna Anderson added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Durren & Jonna by: Huey!
This is my book club book for February - so far, it's beautifully written and a powerful message.

I loved this book, more than most of the members of my book club, I think. I thought his message of the "wound" of the "wounder" was magnificent, something we as a society should give much thought, not only about our past, but our present and future, in much more areas that racial relations.
Kayla Rae
Wendell Berry is genius, plain and simple. He has a beautiful simplicity in his words and ideas that, if implicated, could revolutionize the world not only in terms of race, but also in community, education, religion, and stewardship. Read everything you can by Wendell Berry because you won't regret a single second spent in the presence of his beautiful mind.
Mike Frost
I'm still surprised I was never asked to read this in any of my political theory or sociology classes. It ought to be required reading for anyone interested in race, racism and race relations, or for that matter, man's connection to the earth. Absolutely original, stunningly articulated -- it hit me like a ton of bricks. I cannot recommend this enough.
Anne
A beautiful exploration of the "hidden wound” of racism and the destructive effects on white people in America. I had to read it for class and was surprised by my interest and desire to explore my own family history as well as the history of slavery in our country.
Alexia Kelly
One of the most interesting and insightful books I've read on race and racism in America. I think this is one of Wendell Berry's strongest works, despite the fact that it is far outside of his normal "environmental philosophy". Well worth the read!
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Wendell Berry is a conservationist, farmer, essayist, novelist, professor of English and poet. He was born August 5, 1934 in Henry County, Kentucky where he now lives on a farm. The New York Times has called Berry the "prophet of rural America."
More about Wendell Berry...
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“Our present idea of freedom is only the freedom to do as we please: to sell ourselves for a high salary, a home in the suburbs, and idle weekends. But that is a freedom dependent upon affluence, which is in turn dependent upon the rapid consumption of exhaustible supplies. The other kind of freedom is the freedom to take care of ourselves and of each other. The freedom of affluence opposes and contradicts the freedom of community life.” 5 likes
“To both the racist and the puritan, childhood is not a time of life that we grow out of, as the life of the child grows out of the life of the parent or as a plant grows out of the soil, but a time and state of consciousness to be left behind, to cut oneself off from ... The child may be joyous, the man must be sober and self-denying; the child may be free, the man is to be "responsible"; the child may be candid in his feelings, the man must be polite, restrained, mindful of the demands of convention; the child may be playful, the man must be industrious. I am not necessarily objecting to the manly virtues, but I am objecting that they should be so exclusively assigned to grownups, and that grownups should be so exclusively restricted to them. A man may have all the prescribed adult virtues and, if he lacks the childhood virtues, still be a dunce and a bore and a liar.” 3 likes
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