Apr 03, 10
Read in April, 2010
I found the first few essays in this collection fairly disappointing. They felt stilted and dated, and I had a hard time motivating myself to keep reading. Because this book is so famous, though, I felt like I should finish it, figuring it would at least be good context for some of the other books I've read. I'm very glad I stuck with it because parts II and III were infinitely more engaging.
Part II contains the essays about Harlem, including the essay by the same name as the book's title, and these were the most emotionally compelling pieces. (I wish I'd read them during the 2008 presidential campaign, as Obama's election provides a fascinating new angle on the ones about black politicians.) Part III, which focuses on Baldwin's time in Paris, was less emotional but more interesting in terms of the concept of identity. I especially liked his discussion of the different mentalities of Africans and African-Americans, as well as of white Americans and white Europeans--observations which confirm much of what I've experienced living in Cameroon.