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Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  3,686 ratings  ·  619 reviews
We live, according to Eddie S. Glaude Jr., in a moment when the struggles of Black Lives Matter and the attempt to achieve a new America have been challenged by the election of Donald Trump, a president whose victory represents yet another failure of America to face the lies it tells itself about race. From Charlottesville to the policies of child separation at the border, ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published June 30th 2020 by Crown Publishing Group (NY)
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Average rating 4.44  · 
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 ·  3,686 ratings  ·  619 reviews

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David Wineberg
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
At the center of every galaxy there is a black hole, destroying everything that happens by. For Eddie Glaude, at the center of the mythical America is “the lie” and it taints everyone and everything about the place. In Begin Again, he explores the lie through the thoughts of author James Baldwin, as keen an observer and interpreter of what amounts to the lie as anyone ever has been.

The book is a topline history of 20th century racism, as lived through the pen of James Baldwin. Baldwin’s attitud
Joshunda Sanders
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
I am an avid fan of James Baldwin and have been since junior high school, when I discovered him (or maybe his work discovered me, or both) and found his truth-telling about his shame, his witness and the painful wrestling with America and Black American identity to be comforting and forceful. He always said he wanted to be a good writer and a good man, and of course he was better than both of those modest titles. In Begin Again, Eddie Glaude revisits some of the most penetrating and important wo ...more
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was very good--Baldwin is America's greatest author and Eddie Glaude is one of my favorite modern writers. I loved his Democracy in Black and was surprised at the end of his book that he called on Black voters to not vote for either party in 2016. In this book, he reckons with that advice. Glaude--like all of us--was surprised by Trump's win and it seems his advice has changed. This is a much more hopeful book than others trying to grapple with race in the modern era. ...more
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a white kid in the Midwest raised in an evangelical family the indoctrination starts at birth and of course "it's not racist" it's just how you're trained to think as a "good Christian". We had a mock election at our private Christian school must have been September of 1980 and all I remember is that the "right" person to vote for was very emphatically understood to be Reagan. I was 6. Forget being a Democrat, to think any other way was to be out of the flock. This is one of the insidious way ...more
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Eddie Glaude, Jr. has come into his own. Thoughts to come soon. And soon has arrived 7.7.2020 ✍🏿 In my preview to this book, I said Eddie Glaude has come into his own and has impressively stepped out of the shadow of Cornel West. I think this text solidifies Mr. Glaude as an independent thinker and certified wordsmith. The writing here is often brilliant and approachable. In Begin Again, Eddie Glaude offers us an unflinching look at Baldwin's own brilliance through prose and his critical analysi ...more
Jan 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I REALLY need to write a review. I've got many notes and many flags to review before I write tomorrow. But a wonderful book, and even more timely in the last 12-months. A year and a half ago, I spent a week in Istanbul and NEVER realized that Baldwin lived about one mile from our AirBNB. Dammit, I gotta go back. ...more
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Couldn't put it down. This book gets my highest recommendation.

Glaude envisions us at a historical crossroads. The Civil War and Reconstruction gave America the first opportunity to make good on its declaration of human equality. American racism won. The Civil Rights movement was America's second chance to create a more perfect union. Despite legal advances, inequality persisted.

We are approaching a third moment of reckoning. Glaude uses the work and life of American writer James Baldwin to ta
Dec 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I've seen Eddie Glaude speak on TV and like his insights concerning racial matters in the U.S. His discussion in this readable, often intriguing title revolves around the writings of the black author and civil rights activist James Baldwin. I haven't read Baldwin since my college days, and I'll try to read his essays this time. At any rate, I learned some new things about race relations and Baldwin, so it was a enjoyable read for me. ...more
Tom Walsh
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Such a Beautiful Experience.

I’ve never read another book that so completely envelopes the Author’s Worldview with the Spirit of another’s Soul like this one does. Glaude wears Baldwin’s Words of Anger and Pain like a suit of Armor over his own life experience. It’s terrifying how well it fits this distinguished, looking Princeton Professor.

Glaude takes us through almost all of Baldwin’s important works to point us toward our role, Black and White, in the Aftertime, his word for the Period foll
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Described by Presidential historian and biographer Jon Meacham as “searing, provocative, and ultimately hopeful,” Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.'s Begin Again is a must-read meditation on systemic racism in the United States. Princeton professor and frequent cable network news guest commentator, Glaude opens the book’s introduction with his 2018 arrival in Heidelberg, Germany, where one of the first things he witnessed was a black man on the ground with a police officer’s knee in his back.

Glaude writes of
Ryan Bell
Dec 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful writing about one of the most remarkable writers and public intellectuals of the 2oth century! Maybe the best book I read in 2020.
Kim Williams
Jul 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In Begin Again, Glaude forces us to confront the ongoing lie of our history. It is the lie of white supremacy and American exceptionalism and the history of our country has been shaped in support of that lie. But perhaps the biggest lie we tell ourselves as Americans is that our most recent clashes over rights and equality are new. They are not. Even Trump, often justly vilified as a new racist low for America, is only a symptom of a disease that has plagued this country from its inception. The ...more
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I didn't just read this book, I studied it, backtracking every paragraph. It answered quite a few questions for me and sent me on a mission to read more and to educate myself.

When I was six years old, it should've been an exciting time what with starting school and making new friends, but it was the beginning of a traumatic period in more ways than one, but I'll just center on one that made a lasting impression. It marked the beginning of my rebellious streak and a search mission for questions b
Aug 09, 2020 rated it liked it
As the author himself says, this is a strange book. I think it is excellent at connecting and confirming how the writings of Baldwin foreshadow and bite into the American racism of the present day. I found the discussions of Reagan-era racist policies (that I lived through but did not see) illuminating, and the author’s visit to the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice inspiring and emotionally affecting. But I find the overly-academic tone of the book an ill fit for the sub ...more
Mark Hiser
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Never have I found reading James Baldwin easy or fun. Yet, I do find it necessary to read his work. Not only is he often a great American writer, he is a witness to what it is to be American.

Baldwin calls us to see the truth of America and to look deep within to see our role in that truth. He calls us to reimagine what we could be and what we can individually, and collectively do, to bring that world into existence. He calls upon us to acknowledge anger but find and build on love.

My family mo
Nov 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, audio, race, black
Well, so much for the review I wrote that is still saving, which means it has probably been lost. Rewriting will need to wait until tomorrow.

OK. Let's try this again.

I'm not familiar with the author Eddie S. Glaude Jr., but I am a huge fan of James Baldwin and I was sure I would benefit from considering the connections that could be made between the America of the 60's when Baldwin was in his prime and the America of 2020. The sixties, like America since 2016, were a mess. Then we had the civil
Roger DeBlanck
Jan 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Glaude had me invested with the degree of passion and thoughtfulness he commits to exploring how the inimitable James Baldwin’s blistering and prescient observations of race in America can help us confront the hatred and cruelty of Trump and his enablers. Moreover, I share Glaude’s rage, which would have been Baldwin’s rage too, over Trump’s shameless justification of his White supremacy as an instrument of necessity because he fears equality and justice for all Americans will threaten his privi ...more
Nov 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed Begin Again and the lens through which Glaude forced me to see through regarding Baldwin’s writings and his beliefs about America. It allowed me to embrace and understand the human condition in a deeper way and not merely as what I perceived it to be.
Anthony Neal
Jul 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. has truly moved beyond whatever academic shadows were cast from his professors onto many of his past works and created a work worthy of his reputation and station in life. Glaude’s Is It Nation Time points to an early career radical but could be assumed to take its leave from a brief academic brush with Molefi Asante. Then there is In a Shade of Blue which details the usefulness of Dewey, a la Cornel West, determining a better conception of America’s possibilities. Whatever ...more
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-reads
I read this book twice, both listening to Eddie Glaude tell me his story and then having to buy the digital copy to read the words myself. I started with the Audible version, but there were some phrases that I knew I needed to see with my own eyes; so I bought the Kindle version. I was not disappointed.

I’ve been reading a lot of Baldwin lately, to make sense of my current world. But Baldwin is DENSE and extremely nuanced. He (Baldwin) can spin a phrase and it has layers!! Reading Glaude’s book
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There’s no more prescient book for today than this.
Nov 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Professor Glaude revisits Baldwin for the Trump era, focusing on James as a civil rights warrior as much as a literary figure. Well-written, moving and timely.
David Gallianetti
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating mixture of historical review of the work of James Baldwin and searing commentary on contemporary America. The author's hope is that we will one day unite to truly admit and grow from our country's dark days and commit to creating a multiracial democracy as part of a new America. It must be a treat and a challenge to take a class from Dr. Glaude. ...more
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When I reached the end of this book, I wanted to begin it all over again. It is a book that I wish every American would read and embrace. But that is, of course, a far too idealistic and “la la land” kind of wish—a mere pipe dream. That said, Glaude’s book speaks to our current times in a way that nothing I have read recently has been able to do. With candor and a deeply honest voice, he weaves Baldwin’s life and visionary words into a light to help clear a path for us to move forward through th ...more
Sep 12, 2020 rated it liked it
The examination of Baldwin’s work is excellent, particularly in tracing the changes and continuities in his thinking from the beginning to the end of the Civil Rights Movement. But, for a book that hopes to use insights from examining Baldwin to say something unique about our present situation, it has very little to say about the present that couldn’t be found in any mainstream progressive op-ed since 2016. The book echoes Baldwin in saying that we must all look within ourselves and face painful ...more
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr.'s tour of James Baldwin's life and writing as it pertains to our time is as eloquent as it is relevant. It is not intended as a straightforward biography, nor a critical analysis of Baldwin's work, nor a discussion of historic and current affairs, but instead a sort of long-form braided essay including all of the above.

Professor Glaude does an incredible job of putting James Baldwin and his writing in context of the many civil rights movements during his time. I've
Jul 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing

“I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, that they will be forced to deal with pain”

“There are no clear vistas: the road that seems to pull one forward into the future is also pulling one backward into the past.”

Q. How can we get the black people to cool it?
A. It is not for us to cool it.
Q. But aren’t you the ones who are getting hurt the most?
A. No, we are only the ones who are dying fastest.
—James Baldwin interview
Feb 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was a heavy read. It basically re-examines James Baldwin’s philosophy and how it applies to our society today.

What I really loved about this book was the passion that displayed in the writing by the author. It’s almost we get a sense of the rage Baldwin might have been feeling while he was alive.
Daniel Simmons
Oct 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
A stirring and hopeful read which summons James Baldwin's words from beyond the grave to comment on the peril and promise of living in the Trump era. Glaude's writing can't really compete with that of the man he's writing about (really, whose could?), but this is beautiful, trenchant stuff nonetheless. ...more
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Eddie S. Glaude Jr. is the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor at Princeton University and author of Democracy in Black.

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“If one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected—those, precisely, who need the law’s protection the most!—and listens to their testimony. Ask any Mexican, any Puerto Rican, any black man, any poor person—ask the wretched how they fare in the halls of justice, and then you will know, not whether or not the country is just, but whether or not it has any love for justice, or any concept of it.” 12 likes
“But, in the end, we have to allow this “innocent” idea of white America to die. It is irredeemable, but that does not mean we are too.” 7 likes
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