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

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  13,021 ratings  ·  745 reviews
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 as powerful today as when they were first written.
--back cover
Paperback, US Edition, 192 pages
Published 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
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 Nativ…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
Average rating 4.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  13,021 ratings  ·  745 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Notes of a Native Son
Rowena
“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
...more
Elyse  Walters
Feb 28, 2017 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
...more
J.L.   Sutton
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
“I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am, also, much more than that. So are we all.”

Better known for works such as Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin's Notes of a Native Son (published 2 years later in 1955) is an important collection of essays which highlights issues Baldwin would continue to address. Subjects of his essays include his own home life, life in Harlem, the inequities of separate but equal treatment of blacks in 1940s and 50s America as we
...more
Michael
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, favorites
Powerful and precise as all of the essays are, Baldwin hits his stride with the titular piece, in which he embeds personal meditations on his father's death into a social analysis of the Harlem riot of 1943 and race relations in America. There's nothing else quite like it in the collection, though the essays about Paris in the third and final section are almost as brilliant.
Nicole~
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 aest
...more
Brian
Jan 11, 2015 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
Brierly
Society, it would seem, is a flimsy structure, beneath contempt, designed by and for all the other people, and experience is nothing more than sensation—so many sensations, added up like arithmetic, give one the rich, full life.

I already know that I love James Baldwin's fiction (Giovanni's Room and If Beale Street Could Talk) so I am not surprised to feel similar about this collection of essays. But, this being a collection, of course there was an uneven appreciation as compared to a complete, c
...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.
Lucy Dacus
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Greatest Of All Time
Sebastien
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Scorching per usual with Baldwin.

The first essays feature criticism/analysis of the arts, quite interesting but not my favorite part of the book.

The essays on his father (particularly devastating, sad, insightful) and living in France were my favorites. Deeply powerful, moving essays.

His experience with the French justice system (l'affaire du drap de lit) is completely surreal but believable, the epitome of kafkaesque. It is terrifying, he gets sucked into the blackhole of the French prison sys
...more
leynes
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: black-writers
MY VIDEO ESSAY ON THIS BOOK: https://youtu.be/vFBHQEfsq1o

You might be surprised by the low rating but, unfortunately, I can't justify a higher one. James Baldwin is an author I deeply admire and look up to. He is an incredibly talented writer and I want to read his complete bibliography. I'm surprised myself that I didn't click with Notes of a Native Son. I was so sure that I would love it but alas! it didn't work for me.
The story of the Negro in America is the story of America – or, more pre
...more
Mikey B.
Jun 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I simply could not relate to the writing style of this book. I found it pedagogical, overly verbose, and repetitive.

I found James Baldwin nihilistic (i.e. depressing). I know there are good reasons for this (racism). Also, I found the writing impersonal, being lectured to from on high.

I have not read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” but as the book was written so long ago it stands to reason that it would be anachronistic. I have read “Native Son” by Richard Wright and found the analysis by James Baldwin ove
...more
Sofia

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,
...more
Joshua Rigsby
The titular essay in this collection is phenomenal, one of the best I've ever read. It deals with race (as nearly everything from Baldwin does), but also the severely personal and complicated relationship that Baldwin has with both his father and his own identity. Everything is stirred into this smoking wok of anger and regret that is unlike anything I've ever read. It is amazing.

The rest of the pieces fail to reach the height of "Notes of a Native Son." Many of them are cultural criticism that
...more
Michael Livingston
Jun 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful collection - smart, funny, incisive cultural criticism; long, thoughtful pieces about being a black American in 1950s Paris and a some stunning essays about the US (although all of the essays are fundamentally about race in America). The title essay in particular is spectacular, but the whole book is really great.
Jesse
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 revis ...more
Cheryl
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars -- Mind blown. What an intellect! Baldwin lit my brain, and these essays are STILL powerfully relevant. He defined things I've struggled to understand since attending a "desegregated" high school decades ago. Boy, did I appreciate this read. And what an appropriate preamble to America's upcoming MLK Day and Black History Month.
Miroku Nemeth
Feb 20, 2013 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
Daniel Chaikin
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
16. Notes of a native son by James Baldwin
published: 1955
format: 129 pages inside Collected Essays: Notes of a Native Son / Nobody Knows My Name / The Fire Next Time / No Name in the Street / The Devil Finds Work / Other Essays
acquired: December
read: Feb 26 – Mar 9
time reading: 5 hr 57 min, 2.8 min/page
rating: 4

From Litsy: Having trouble putting thoughts together on this. His autobiographical essays are pretty powerful, especially the title essay about his 19th birthday spent dealing with his fa
...more
G.
Oct 31, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5/5
My first Baldwin nonfiction. Fitting, since Notes of a Native Son was his first nonfiction. There's no denying that Baldwin was an exceptional writer and an insightful thinker. That said, Notes of a Native Son was a bit more of a mixed bag than expected.
B. P. Rinehart
"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
...more
Elizabeth A
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, essays, 2017
"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."

I don't recall the last book I read that gave me such a mental workout. It took me a while to read this one as I had to stop and ponder what the man said, and much of my copy is highlighted. I would have loved to read this one in a classroom setting, so was delighted that my GR pal Elizabeth agreed
...more
Michael McLellan
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'm not a very good book reviewer and could do James Baldwin's essays no justice by attempting one here.
I will say that I'm of the opinion that this book should be required reading for every American high school student. If you haven't read it, please do as soon as possible.
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
This is a forceful, dynamic and persuasive collection of essays written by Baldwin while he was in his 20s! As a middle (past..) aged woman I am dazzled by the intelligent world-view and ability to analyze data of a man so young. Baldwin's writing is sensational, his ideas revolutionary and his ability to express it all impactful. In 2020 we haven't made nearly enough progress in changing the problems that Baldwin wrote about so many decades ago. I can only imagine the sorrow he would experience ...more
Nathan
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
...more
Joanka
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
In Notes of a Native Son Baldwin discusses mainly the problem of race and judging from many contemporary texts from US, the one thing that has changed is mostly the nomenclature. Most of the issues presented are still up-to-date and I would risk a statement that they are not restricted to race, but to most minority groups. Baldwin writes also a lot about identity as such, being a stranger in a society, his own life, Paris and European mentality versus American one, finally family relations. Note ...more
Aloke
Very well written and powerful. And worth rereading. The introduction by Edward jones, a well-known author in his own right, was also good. I want to read his The Known World.

My only criticism would be that I found Part I slow going and would recommend casual readers come back to it later. Although touching on Baldwin's usual themes they revolve around the books "Uncle Tom's Cabin", "Native Son" and the movie "Carmen Jones" and I haven't read/seen these so I didn't understand a lot of what he wa
...more
Kusaimamekirai
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Before my review, in which I quote liberally from Baldwin as he invariably is far more eloquent than I will ever be, I want to share one quote in the foreword, for no other reason than it is beautiful and everything I love about him.

“About my interests: I don’t know if I have any, unless the morbid desire to own a sixteen-millimeter camera and make experimental movies can be so classified. Otherwise, I love to eat and drink. It’s my melancholy conviction that I’ve scarcely ever had enough to ea
...more
Abby
“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.”


As timely as ever.
Maya
Apr 15, 2016 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
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Bezmatek
  • The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate Over Race in America
  • Native Son
  • Nie przywitam się z państwem na ulicy. Szkic o doświadczaniu niepełnosprawności
  • Gniew. Inna historia III RP
  • Języczni. Co język robi naszej głowie
  • W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919
  • The Souls of Black Folk
  • Strup. Hiszpania rozdrapuje rany
  • Moja osoba. Eseje i przygody
  • Wolność, równość, przemoc. Czego nie chcemy sobie powiedzieć
  • Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination
  • Polska przydrożna
  • Światy równoległe. Czego uczą nas płaskoziemcy, homeopaci i różdżkarze
  • Stramer
  • Linjen
  • Poniemieckie
  • How to Be an Antiracist
See similar books…
6,314 followers
James^Baldwin

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 mini
...more

Related Articles

Like  The Mothers , Brit Bennett’s bestselling debut,  The Vanishing Half  revolves around a secret with far-reaching implications. 
39 likes · 7 comments
“The American ideal, after all, is that everyone should be as much alike as possible.” 48 likes
“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.”
42 likes
More quotes…