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Baldwin's Harlem: A Biography of James Baldwin
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Baldwin's Harlem: A Biography of James Baldwin

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  121 ratings  ·  22 reviews
Baldwin's Harlem is an intimate portrait of the life and genius of one of our most brilliant literary minds: James Baldwin. Perhaps no other writer is as synonymous with Harlem as James Baldwin (1924-1987). The events there that shaped his youth greatly influenced Baldwin's work, much of which focused on his experiences as a black man in white America. Go Tell It on the Mo ...more
Hardcover, 244 pages
Published January 8th 2008 by Atria Books (first published 2008)
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Feb 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Herb Boyd gives us a gossipy biography of Baldwin that somehow works.
Boyd is sure to deeply confuse, offend and anger those who take into
consideration "the white gaze" -as Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison so delicately puts it.
Boyd seems to unconsciously ignore the"white gaze".

Boyd admits that he really didn't know Baldwin personally. Yet Boyd skillfully uses Baldwins writings and interviews with Baldwins friends and acquaintances to weave his narrative. A large amount of personal opinion and obs
Rodrigue Ronald
Apr 13, 2017 rated it liked it
As a Baldwin enthusiast, it is humbling to have my bubble burst about the man and realize who he was, especially when coming from a narrative which is not his own. I like reading this biography and the insights, it gives on Baldwin's reluctance on joining the civil rights movements in its early days,on his family life and of course of the many rivalries he had with other famous writers of his time. Al through a great book to enjoy, but if you are a Baldwin's fan you might come off a bit unease a ...more
Brandon Floyd
Dec 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
Herb Boyd approaches "Baldwin's Harlem" with far too much interest in himself and not enough commitment to his craft. In fact, there's hardly any sense of Baldwin here at all. Even as Boyd explicitly traces the author's trajectory through Harlem, from youth to prominence, the biographical narrative reads more like a congested chronology than an exploration of environment and being.Instead we hear Boyd's voice delivering Baldwin's legacy in a manner so riddled with conjecture and assumption that ...more
John Vanderslice
Aug 15, 2022 rated it really liked it
For anyone with an abiding interest in the work and influence of James Baldwin, this is a great find. Despite its subtitle, it can't really be considered a biography as we normally think of biographies. It's less a story of Baldwin's life--although Boyd does touch on all the different periods of that life--than it is a series of essays that look up close at Baldwin's relationships with different individuals and different places. Baldwin and Malcolm X, for instance; Baldwin and Amiri Baraka; most ...more
GLF (stop you'll go blind!!!)
Realistically 3.5 stars is more accurate.

This book really isn't a 'biography' as such, but more an investigation in into the effect growing up in "Harlem" had on James Baldwin as a writer and on the fiction and non-fiction he wrote over the years .

There is a chronology of major events in Baldwin's life at the end of the book, which contrasts with the main text which seems to leap frog around various parts of Baldwin's life. The two "interviews" also provide an insight into Baldwin the man that i
Sam Motes
Jan 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting look into the events and people who influenced the making of the mind and soul of the man who gave the world so many beautiful works. It is not just a glowing one sided view of Baldwin but tackles his brushes with antisemitism and antichristian beliefs as he struggled to deal with the oppression of his people.

Jul 05, 2020 rated it did not like it
Firstly, if you are looking for a biography this is not it. It's drivel, not so veiled homophobia, and more than half is just quotations. And worse, most of it is conjecture and opinion, not even well thought out or well written opinion. This author loves to hear himself speak and considering he inserted pages and pages his own interviews in there, you can tell just how much he loves himself. ...more
Jul 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
This wasn't really the book I wanted to read. more of a portrait of Baldwin and his critics than a linear biography of Baldwin and his early life in Harlem. ...more
May 11, 2022 rated it liked it
A weirdly disjointed and jumpy biography but I’m sure having a broad outline of Baldwin’s life and thought will come in handy as I dig more into his ouevre in the near future.
May 13, 2020 rated it liked it
A scattered book of anecdotes and historical references. Helpful if you already know a lot about Baldwin, but not particularly enlightening.
J'Aime 'James'
Mar 19, 2016 rated it liked it
I have to agree with Brandon's review of the book. As a Harlemite, I was hoping to have more insight into a legendary Harlem writer and the neighborhood in which he was raised. Instead I found this book to be more centered on Boyd than Baldwin and in a language that read like a senior thesis. I also feel it might have been better if the writer had written the book as a chronological biography as opposed to a topical biography.

Feb 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-memoir
This was the first (and so far only) James Baldwin bio I've ever read. I do know that a handful of very good Baldwin bios exist, so I thought this was a pretty worthwhile and unique perspective to choose. Perhaps because other bios exist, this one is fairly dense, but pretty light on pages. I learned a lot of interesting things about Baldwin and reading it has made me more interested in reading some of the meatier bios. ...more
Liz Murray
Jan 07, 2014 rated it liked it
This is the first James Baldwin bio I've read and I did learn a bit more about him that I haven't read in his non-fiction. I found myself skimming a bit near the end though. Baldwin is such a masterful writer that it must be difficult for another writer to do him justice. I'm not sure if I'll rush to another Baldwin bio anytime soon, my preference is to reach for a Baldwin original and thankfully there's quite a bit of his work I'm still to read. ...more
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this book that revolves around Baldwin's personal and artistic connection to Harlem.

The author is clearly partisan and defends Baldwin tooth and nail from the literary and political attacks that he was on the receiving end of throughout his life.

However, the book is a worth while read because of Baldwin, a great writer, a fascinating figure, and an immense literary life.
KL Dilley
I reeeeealllly couldn't get through this book. I should have been able to because it's about James Baldwin in Harlem. How could that not be captivating? Well it wasn't. Right in the intro Boyd comes across a bit Rick Warrenish and from there it went down an unfortunate road. Too bad. ...more
Aug 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Informative book about Baldwin's relationship with Harlem and the influence it had on his writings. The book also introduced me to other African American intellectuals who were contemporaries of Baldwin. Their opinions of him and his works were substantial.. ...more
Mario King
Sep 24, 2013 rated it liked it
I thought the book was intriguing. Mr. Boyd did a good job of painting a portrait of Baldwin's Harlem. It was a good backdrop into the life and thoughts of Mr. James Baldwin. Good read!!! ...more
Apr 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the most intimate autobiography on James Baldwin and the fascinating ever-changing period of Harlem Renaissance I have read so far. I will add more to this review at a later time.
Dec 11, 2012 rated it liked it
The book is a very good read, I did want to get more of a sense of intimacy from the author about Baldwin, but still enjoyed it.
Steven Spector
Sep 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Read in conjunction with better subject bios. This is more issue-based than one might like and comes in at about 200pp in big print and small sized-pages.
May 27, 2008 rated it liked it
well-researched but a little flat. it's hard to read a book about the best American writer by a writer who is just ok... read it if you're a hardcore james baldwin fan. ...more
Mar 20, 2009 rated it liked it
At this moment in my life Balwdin is my inspiration.

Interesting read. I learned a lot about the complicated, beautiful and torn being that was Baldwin.
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Rachel Harper
rated it it was amazing
Oct 20, 2021
Lois BL
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May 08, 2008
Hollie Majdan
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Sep 15, 2021
Judith Grace
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Nov 12, 2011
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Herb Boyd is an awarding-winning American author and journalist who has published 17 books and countless articles for national magazines and newspapers. Brotherman:The Odyssey of Black Men in America: An Anthology (One World/Ballantine, 1995), co-edited with Robert Allen of the Black Scholar journal, won the American Book Award for nonfiction. In 1999, Boyd won three first place awards from the Ne ...more

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