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

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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, his administration turned its back on the promise of Obama's presidency and refused to embrace a vision of the country shorn of the insidious belief that white people matter more than others.

We have been here before: For James Baldwin, these after times came in the wake of the civil rights movement, when a similar attempt to compel a national confrontation with the truth was answered with the murders of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. In these years, spanning from the publication of The Fire Next Time in 1963 to that of No Name in the Street in 1972, Baldwin transformed into a more overtly political writer, a change that came at great professional and personal cost. But from that journey, Baldwin emerged with a sense of renewed purpose about the necessity of pushing forward in the face of disillusionment and despair.

In the story of Baldwin's crucible, Glaude suggests, we can find hope and guidance through our own after times, this Trumpian era of shattered promises and white retrenchment. Mixing biography--drawn partially from newly uncovered interviews--with history, memoir, and trenchant analysis of our current moment, Begin Again is Glaude's endeavor, following Baldwin, to bear witness to the difficult truth of race in America today. It is at once a searing exploration that lays bare the tangled web of race, trauma, and memory, and a powerful interrogation of what we all must ask of ourselves in order to call forth a new America.

272 pages, Hardcover

First published June 30, 2020

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About the author

Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

14 books483 followers
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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Profile Image for David Wineberg.
Author 2 books706 followers
December 16, 2019
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 attitudes and positions evolved as he endured the stubbornness of white intransigence and its (at best) willful blindness to racism. Not much better were the largely ineffective solutions of black motivators, from Martin Luther King to Malcolm X to Stokely Carmichael and Eldridge Cleaver (all of whom Baldwin was close to and supported). The problem refused to evolve, let alone resolve. Only the perceptions mutated. And that remains criminally insufficient, 250 years after the founding.

Glaude shows himself as an intense student of Baldwin. Nuances mere readers would never notice are magnified in Glaude’s telling and analysis. The bitterness, confusion, frustration and depression shine beyond the mere words on the page or the in the many interviews Baldwin gave (He tried to commit suicide – twice). This interpretation frames the discussion. It makes the book much more than a more-of-the-same diatribe on discrimination.

For Baldwin, the lie was the original white settlers being able to distinguish what was a man. They knew a man when they saw one. If a man wasn’t a man, there was no harm in dealing with him as subhuman, he said. That’s the story of America. Today, as Glaude explains it, blacks see themselves “in but not of, this country.” They continue to battle, because they have to.

Baldwin, of course, left. He couldn’t stand it. It clouded his intellect. He wrote in Paris and in Istanbul. When he came back, nothing had really changed, except the players. Friends like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King had been murdered, and attitudes had hardly budged. He said “The horror is that America changes all the time, without ever changing at all.”

Today, the examination has become microscopic, sweeping everyone and everything in its path. For Glaude: “He (Baldwin) exposes your private lies and forces you, because of his own relentless commitment to the examined life, to confront your deepest wounds as a precondition to saying anything about the world.” That’s the level of intensity throughout the book. It is not about “saving” Trump voters, Glaude says. It’s much deeper than that and applies to everyone.

Glaude gets caught in the silliness of Confederate statuary, examining the value of various celebrities of the era and whether or not statues should be allowed outside museum displays. I for one cannot understand why there is even an argument. Normally, when someone wins a war, first thing they do is tear down the flag and then prevent hero worship of the old regime. The flag goes away forever. From all appearances in the USA, the South won the war. The proud evidence is everywhere.

There should simply be no sign of the vanquished state at all, and the federal government needs to address this absurdity, before more books get published examining the pros and cons. But I, like Glaude, digress.

America is actually more liberal than its lawmakers, as Noam Chomsky has pointed out numerous times over the decades of my life. Suddenly, and without a catalyst, the death penalty was on its way out, nationwide. Gays became tolerable, and the general will soon evolved for them to marry openly. Marijuana became acceptable almost overnight, and there is widespread feeling it should be totally decriminalized. What’s next, we should all hope, is for white supremacy to become intolerable. In the book, Glaude calls for nationwide discussion of reparations. Perhaps that level of consciousness-raising might start the ball rolling. We should give it a shot, because this can’t just keep going on forever.

This is about the 30th book on racism I have reviewed. I put their unique points in a chapter on racism in my book The Straight Dope. So this is familiar, if not fertile terrain. But Begin Again is more intense and inward-looking. As I read Glaude’s words and watched his emotions unfold, a single thought kept intruding. It is a shame that black Americans have to devote so much of their consciousness and their very lives to defining, defending and destroying the lie. What a waste. It’s a little sickening to think how much farther ahead the whole country could be if they were free to apply their intellects and talents elsewhere instead. In the meantime, Glaude, like Baldwin before him, remains optimistic for humanity to overcome stupidity.

David Wineberg
Profile Image for Joshunda Sanders.
Author 13 books368 followers
April 5, 2020
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 work of James Baldwin to sort through our racially fraught present. There is a recovery of the Reagan era to make a parallel between Trump and Reagan that is often muted in our media discourse that is refreshing. Reading this during the coronavirus pandemic means that Glaude's evocation of Baldwin referencing "the after times" takes on new meaning. Before the pandemic, it felt like we were living in those times, originally mentioned in the wake of the death of Baldwin's friends and civil rights/Black Power icons being assassinated. But what of the world the book will be born into? Well, those are going to be after times, too, for sure. The book feels like a meditation on what Baldwin could and should mean to us in a presidential election year as we grapple with a totally new historical context that is still to come, but also a reflection on a racial history that, unfortunately, seems too cyclical for us to a find a truly fresh start.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,657 followers
July 21, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Tim.
295 reviews290 followers
September 6, 2020
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 ways that American racism manifests - through the combination of god and country politics when the country as imagined is a lie. Some of course don't try to hide the racist reality but for those who deny it we've had decades of gaslighting. "The horror is that America...," Baldwin wrote, "changes all the time, without ever changing at all."

I couldn't have possibly understood at 6 what Reagan meant to people like Baldwin. Now it SEEMS to be even worse with Trump although this is just all the same racist bullshit repackaged and repackaged again. One of the themes of this book is the repetition of Baldwin's message throughout his life until his death at the end of the Reagan years. Another theme is how we approach hanging on to hope for change when the identity of America is so strongly tied to whiteness and its constant sophisticated reinventions at the exclusion of others. Just deny it or ignore it - it doesn't really exist is our MO.

Glaude fully encourages holding onto rage at appropriate times but channeling that rage into action. This is one of those times. But Glaude cautions "As we confront this latest iteration of the lie, we cannot hide in the comfort of an easy identity politics or revel in the self-righteousness of a moralism that announces our inherent goodness and the obvious evil of our opponents. This is too simplistic a moral picture. We should all remember that we are at once miracles and disasters. Demonizing others isn't the point. Failing to realize this springs the trap again. Baldwin wants us to imagine ourselves without need for enemies. He wants us to be a new creation, a reflection of a new America."

White America is not at all ready to make things right because it will involve pain in everyday life - economic pain for example. However if we don't make things right the country as we know it will collapse and it may happen sooner than we think. 2020 has brought the perfect storm: Millions out of work, a severe recession, continued unaddressed grievances, completely different realities depending upon your worldview, 393 million guns and a narcissist in chief who derives his power precisely through division. But it doesn't matter who is in office. The President is a reflection of us. He is us. Whoever wins in November (or whenever this mess of an election will be decided) all the work will still be there - half the country still believes that electing someone like Trump is not really racist. I spent an hour last night watching the 1965 debate where Baldwin eviscerated William F Buckley at Cambridge and every single word Baldwin said applies today. All of it. 55 years ago. This is disgraceful and we have to end it. Every person in America should read and internalize everything Baldwin has ever written.
Profile Image for Andre.
521 reviews141 followers
July 7, 2020
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 analysis of a very turbulent America in the sixties. We also get a look at Baldwin, the man, and how the turbulence affected him. Baldwin counted Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X as friends in some capacity, so to live through the loss of these imposing men had a profound impact on Baldwin the writer, and Baldwin the man. This book doesn't say what Baldwin would say in these times, but looks at what Baldwin said during his time of turbulence. And boldly asks is any of that critique relevant to our present day. The introduction is titled “Thinking With Jimmy” and that is a very apt description as that is really the basis of the entire text. In Mr. Glaude's estimation, America has to let go of the lie if she ever wants to heal.

“The people who settled the country had a fatal flaw. They could recognize a man when they saw one. They knew he wasn’t… anything else but a man; but since they were Christian, and since they had already decided that they came here to establish a free country, the only way to justify the role this chattel was playing in one’s life was to say that he was not a man. For if he wasn’t, then no crime had been committed. That lie is the basis of our present trouble.”

Baldwin was often a critic of white, so-called liberals who persisted in the lie's maintenance. This fits in nicely with Glaude's idea of the value gap, which he introduced in his previous work. There must come a day of reckoning where one decides what kind of country they want to live In and actively work to make that country possible. The brilliant way Mr. Glaude pulls together Baldwin’s prose and sprinkles biographical elements is exciting and makes this a must read.

“Baldwin offered these words for those who desperately sought to imagine a way forward: ‘Not everything is lost. I cannot lose responsibility, it can only be abdicated. If one refuses abdication, one begins again.’ So, is it hopeful or hopeless, I would say the text is definitely helpful, in gaining a deeper understanding of Baldwin and his wondrous pen. “Liberation from the languages and categories that box us in requires that we tap the source of it all, free ourselves of the lie, and start this whole damn thing over.’” With that being said it is highly important that one reflect on and gain a deep respect and understanding of language. This book goes a long way in that education. Thanks to Netgalley for the DRC and book is out now and has garnered best seller status.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,688 followers
January 14, 2021
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.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
Author 1 book150 followers
July 30, 2022
“I do believe in truth and reconciliation. I just think that truth and reconciliation are sequential: That you can’t have reconciliation without the truth.”
Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative

Eddie S. Glaude Jr. is a Princeton Professor and lifetime student of James Baldwin. What he does in this book is what many of us do with thinkers that we admire: apply what we know of their writings to our own times and lives. And because Baldwin is Baldwin and Glaude is a scholar, his conclusions are profound.

Two recurring themes he discusses are “the lie” and “the aftertimes.”

We know about the lie. No, not the “Big Lie” in our current events. An even bigger lie that has been with us much longer, the lie of White Supremacy. A lie so embedded in the white psyche that some are right now fighting tooth and nail against broaching the truth in classrooms.

Baldwin explains the lie beautifully:
“The people who settled the country had a fatal flaw. They could recognize a man when they saw one. They knew he wasn’t … anything else but a man; but since they were Christian, and since they had already decided that they came here to establish a free country, the only way to justify the role this chattel was playing in one’s life was to say that he was not a man. For if he wasn’t then no crime had been committed. That lie is the basis of our present trouble.”

And the after times come after any significant improvement for Black Americans--the occurrence of a type of backlash. After times after the Civil War, after times after the Civil Rights Movement, and after times after Obama and Black Lives Matter that we’re going through now.

Studying the after times seems to me to be at the heart of this book. Why are we here again? What went wrong last time? What can we do better this time?

“When we are surprised to see the reemergence of Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and other white nationalists, we reveal our willful ignorance about how our own choices make them possible.”

How do we, as the title says, “begin again?” We turn to Baldwin for inspiration, of course, who thought deeply about these issues. Glaude shares Baldwin’s life experiences and thoughts, and then considers what can be applied to today.

A very well written and engaging study of America’s history, aspects of James Baldwin’s life, and maybe some intellectual tools we can use to keep fighting for a more just society.
Profile Image for Jolanta (knygupe).
825 reviews181 followers
November 1, 2021
'Baldwin did not call for a third American founding. Instead, he worked tirelessly for what he called the New Jerusalem. To my mind, there is little difference between the two. Both call for a world and a society that reflect the value that all human life, no matter the color of your skin, your zip code, your gender, or who you love, is sacred. In his after times, Jimmy understood that something new was desperately trying to be born, but the old ghosts had the baby by the throat. He wrote in the epilogue to No Name in the Street: "An old world is dying, and a new one kicking in the belly of its mother, time, announces that it is ready to be born. This birth will not be easy, and many of us are doomed to discover that we are exceedingly clumsy midwives. No matter, so long as we accept that our responsibility is to the newborn: the acceptance of responsibility contains the key." That was 1972. The labor has been long and hard, and the new world has yet to be born. We are now in our after times, but responsibility has not been lost. Whatever happens next will be up to us.'

A philosopher-poet.

Knygos autorius apžvelgdamas James Baldwin asmenybę ir jo daugelį ese kalba apie dabartinę ir ateities JAV. Kaip bebūtų liūdna, man autoriaus vizija skamba utopiškai. Duokdiev, kad klysčiau.
Profile Image for Blair Hodges .
508 reviews76 followers
July 19, 2020
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 talk about what it's like to have hope in the face of shattering disappointment and banal racism.

If we are to begin again we can only do so by honestly reckoning with the harder truths about American history. That from its founding, those in power have accepted the lie that human inequality is the natural and correct state of things. So we must reckon with history and work toward repentance, truth, and reconciliation.

Part history, biography, memoir, literary criticism, and social commentary, I cannot recommend this book enough. A rarity also because the profundity of its analysis is matched by the beauty of its prose.
Profile Image for Ed.
Author 43 books2,693 followers
December 10, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Diz.
1,563 reviews87 followers
August 25, 2021
The author looks back at the life and works of James Baldwin and makes comparisons between Baldwin's times and the times that we live in. In particular, he draws comparisons between the collapse of the Civil Rights Movement after the death of Dr. King and the election of Trump after the Obama presidency. Throughout American history, whenever big steps towards racial justice are achieved, a reactionary movement against these steps occurs. Baldwin bore witness to this after the Civil Rights Movement and struggled with the emotional pain of that collapse. The author of this book proposes that Baldwin's struggle can provide us with an example of how to get through these dark times. While the content is a bit depressing, it does contain a seed of hope, and hope is what we need in these dark times.
Profile Image for Cherisa B.
500 reviews40 followers
November 26, 2022
Glaude wonderfully lays bare Baldwin’s search for truth in a culture and society built on a big lie. The American doctrine that all men are created equal and free to pursue life, liberty and happiness has been twinned throughout its existence with slavery, Jim Crow, segregation and racially motivated incarceration. He examines how James responded to the betrayal of the Civil Rights movement with the election of Reagan and other backlash activity across the nation, and what he would have said about Trump in the aftermath of 8 years under a Black president. He evaluates criticism of Baldwin during his life and posthumously, and reveals how truly relevant his work remains. Will the BLM movement make a difference? Will the counterforce of white supremacy trample the search for justice once again? Glaude tries to balance pessimism that we can’t learn if we won’t speak the truth, with tender hope, and an incipient blueprint for how to begin again for the formation of a country that lives its stated ideals.

Republican efforts to suppress coursework on The 1619 Project came after publication, but legislating that we can’t revisit history and try to understand it a new way is horrifying in even its possibility of becoming law. We will never perfect our union if we won’t face our sins.
Profile Image for Dave.
1,121 reviews28 followers
August 10, 2020
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 subject matter. Whenever Baldwin is quoted, things leap off the page—his brilliance, energy and anger almost distract from the quietly-reasoned, well-researched, admittedly inarguable conclusions of the author.

I think I benefited from reading this book, and I definitely recommend it. But I feel like reading No Name In the Street would’ve been a better choice for me. Then I’d love to take Glaude’s seminar.
Profile Image for Lauren .
1,714 reviews2,310 followers
November 19, 2022
/ Context and Milieu /

"Always the poet, Baldwin struck at the heart of what the country held sacred, no matter the costs. And in the midst of it, he loved hard, he found time to laugh, he cherished his family, and he found the space to rest in order to get up and fight again." (pg 144)

• BEGIN AGAIN: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie S. Glaude Jr., 2020.

Glaude steeps his reader in the times - the 1950s-70s of Baldwin's writing career - as well as the last 5-8 years of our own present moment.

He weaves the events in Birmingham with those in Ferguson, Memphis with Charlottesville - then / now.

Within this is the story of Baldwin, who left the US for years in France, Türkiye, and then back again.

The biography mentions Baldwin's well known literary works, but does not dig into them in the ways I was expecting. Instead Glaude focuses more on the context and the milieu surrouding Baldwin, Black consciousness, and his role as a public intellectual. It talks about his struggles and relationships with other Black luminaries - Martin, Malcolm, and groups like the Black Panthers, and the NAACP.

Glaude refers to the 45th US presidency quite a bit (he was writing this book during that time, pre-Covid, pre- George Floyd) so no doubt the research would have been different a few years later as history drums on. He recalls a lot of his own experiences, and draws the parallels of the late 2010/20s with the tumultuous times of the late 1960s and 70s.

✨ Great companion read to Baldwin's works - fiction and essays alike.
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,897 reviews218 followers
March 13, 2023
“In writing this book, I wanted to understand more fully how Baldwin navigated his disappointments, how he lived his refusal to chase windmills any longer, and how he maintained his faith that all of us… could still be better. I needed to understand how he harnessed his rage and lived his faith.”

This book is part biography, literary analysis, memoir, social commentary, and history. Glaude looks at America’s racism through the lens of Baldwin’s writings and activism. Glaude points out the vast swings between efforts that support positive change toward racial equality with periods that maintain the status quo. He explores Baldwin’s views and analyzes how they changed over time. He relates them to contemporary American society. Glaude comes across as an eloquent and passionate spokesperson for Baldwin’s ideas. Definitely worth reading if you are interested in the history of racial issues in the US and what we can do about it.

“In our time, with so much hatred and venom in our politics and our culture, we must actively cultivate communities of love that allow us to imagine different ways of being together.”
Profile Image for Tom Walsh.
590 reviews9 followers
January 8, 2021
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 following the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60’s. A period America’s Whites pretty much flaunt as the time when bigotry and hate were dispatched to the Graveyard of the Past. Glaude uses Baldwin’s life and words to show us the error of their ways.

The Lie that America has left Slavery behind is the beating heart of this book and the Country itself. We can still see it in the Ghettos of our Cities, the horrors of Black Public Schools and in Economists’ Charts and Graphs.

But this isn’t a History Book or even a Literary Biography. It is a work drawn from the Heart of a Sensitive, Gay, Black Man whose Life paralleled the Black Experience since The Aftertime in every detail. And it’s a life, that, as Chris Rock has said, no White Man would exchange for his own.

There are too many important passages in Begin Again to cover here, but I can’t overlook the final three chapters where Glaude recounts his visit to Montgomery, Alabama, a town I have visited, lived and worked in since 1977. He tours some of the sites on the Civil Rights Tourism Trail (Irony Intentional) and takes us to Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative’s Lynching Museum. If you read no other part of this book, read these words and try not to weep.

Armed with an understanding of what Being Black in America has meant for Four Hundred Years seen through James Baldwin’s eyes and words, it will be clear what all of Americans must do to Begin Again.

That’s the lesson of this Book, exquisitely told. Five Stars . . . PLUS!
Profile Image for Ryan Bell.
55 reviews28 followers
December 30, 2020
Beautiful writing about one of the most remarkable writers and public intellectuals of the 2oth century! Maybe the best book I read in 2020.
Profile Image for Sue.
278 reviews6 followers
June 14, 2020
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 traveling to Nice, France, to see expat black writer James Baldwin’s former residence and of finding the site under demolition, with new luxury apartments to take its once modest place. Glaude thinks of how Baldwin had summed up his own life after years back in the U.S..voicing the need for change:

"I pray I've done my work . . . when I've gone from here, and all the turmoil, through the wreckage and rubble, and through whatever, when someone finds themselves digging through the ruins . . . I pray that somewhere in that wreckage they'll find me, somewhere in that wreckage that they use something I left behind."

In response to Baldwin’s words, Glaude explains, "I started digging, and Begin Again is what I found."

Glaude concludes his introduction with Baldwin’s emotional devastation following Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination--one death out of so many--and with Baldwin’s hope for a better nation:

"When the dream was slaughtered and all that love and labor seemed to have come to nothing, we scattered. . . . We knew where we had been, what we had tried to do, who had cracked, gone mad, died, or been murdered around us.

"Not everything is lost. Responsibility cannot be lost, it can only be abdicated. If one refuses abdication, one begins again."

Partially in light of the Trump administration, Glaude feels that the nation must own up to its many past failures, take full responsibility, and begin again.

After Glaude’s detailed Introduction comes his eloquent, and sometimes painfully eye-opening, meditation on Baldwin’s writings and our own time. He focuses on such issues as the lie of American freedom and equality, the troubled nation to which Baldwin bore witness, lost lives and social turmoil during the Civil Rights Movement and the Trump administration, differences between Baldwin and Black Power advocates, and the challenging path forward.

My thanks to NetGalley, Crown, and Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. for an Advance Reader Copy of this beautifully written
and urgently important book.
Profile Image for Kim Williams.
200 reviews1 follower
July 20, 2020
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 author invites us to begin again by reflecting on our past struggles through the eyes of perhaps its truest witness, James Baldwin. He takes us through the times of hope and despair experienced by Baldwin during the Civil Rights Era and how it was made manifest in his writings. He offers Baldwin's work as a guide, a beacon of hope in these desolate times. We've been here before. Will this be the moment that we ensure we'll never be here again? Both authors hope so, and by the end of this book, I believe we all will regain our hope.
Profile Image for Daniel Chaikin.
594 reviews56 followers
July 4, 2021
While in the midst of really nice reading streak, this was my commute audio and it fit right in. Glaude reads it himself. He's measured and passionate and reads it perfectly and he creates a nice space to think about James Baldwin.

For all his anger, Baldwin‘s The Fire Next Time has an optimism his later, more realistic works, don‘t…especially after he saw Reagan elected in 1979 and understood what it meant. And that‘s covered here. Gaude applies Baldwin to our times and it works both as an ode to one of my favorite humans ever and a passionate pointed analysis of where we are and what Trump meant and our role within (even us horrified by trump and his white-privilege base). This, altogether, is kinda wonderful.

On a personal side note, I read through James Baldwin's works in 2019, but I stopped at the end of that year and never read his later essays and novels from the late 1970's and 1980's. Glaude focuses mainly the works I hadn't read, going into a little detail in them - the novel Just Above My Head (1979) and the essay collection The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, 1948-1985 which covers everything through 1985. (I might have all the essays, not sure). So...I have new motivation to get back to Baldwin and read these later works.


28. Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie S. Glaude jr.
reader: Eddie S. Glaude jr.
published: 2020
format: 7:44 audible audiobook, 272 pages in hardcover
acquired: June 11
listened: Jun 14-28
rating: 4
about the author: born in 1968 in Moss Point, Mississippi. Currently Department Chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton.
Profile Image for Joseph Stieb.
Author 1 book132 followers
June 15, 2021
A pretty disappointing book in a lot of ways. My first beef is that while I get this isn't supposed to be a biography it's about 75% Glaude and 25% Baldwin. I wish it had been more structured and a little more biographical, as each chapter makes the same basic points repeatedly without giving a detailed sense of Baldwin's life and thought.

A larger problem with the book comes with Glaude's framing of US history. I obviously agree with him and Baldwin . The biggest contribution of Baldwin to our understanding of race relations is that ultimately a multiracial democracy cannot be created unless white people face up to the reality of ongoing racism and discrimination and interrogate their own need to have an enemy. That's his big insight into human nature and into why so man white Americans needed the degraded black person to build their own identity and sense of self worth. Baldwin brilliantly made the project of multiracial democracy and "achieving our country"

Glaude's historical framing, though, deviates from my understanding of Baldwin and charts a hyper-pessimistic course similar to that of the 1619 Project. First, he is stuck between the contradiction of saying our country was rotten from the start and wanting to achieve/realize principles for everybody that were present at the founding (individual rights, limited government, human equality, tolerance) but hypocritically, inconsistently, and self-servingly applied. He quotes MLK, who brilliantly called the nation to live up to the values of its founding (and its second founding during the Civil War and Reconstruction), but Glaude's portrayal of the nation's history is too dismissive and "burn-it-down" to really embrace MLK's framing. He doesn't seem to realize that he's doing this, nor does he resolve the contradiction.

On a deeper level, Glaude commits what Stephen Pinker calls "progressophobia," or a stubborn refusal to recognize any form of progress lest the dominant group say "ok cool we did it let's pack it in, no more need for change." Glaude frames U.S. racial history as a series of betrayals: Reconstruction betrayed and abandoned, leading to Jim Crow; the CRM betrayed and abandoned by white backlash, and the Obama era betrayed and abandoned by Trumpism. There's something to be said for this pattern: in each case, a dominant group reacted negatively to the advances of the subordinate group and reacted by a reassertion of power and of the definition of the nation as essentially white.

Still, Glaude's framing erases the distinctions between each of turning point moments. All he sees is the betrayal, not the accomplishments: the Reconstruction amendments, the flood of Civil Rights and anti-poverty legislation of the 1960s, and the rise of the first black president who was pretty good at his job and probably would have beaten Trump in a head-to-head match. In Reconstruction, the gains were erased for a long time, but it set the legal stage for a rebirth later. The CRM, I think, changed the country in ways that Glaude dismisses, including a huge if incomplete moral shift regarding racism and prejudice (look at things like interracial marriages for instance), and opening of citizenship to people of all races, and a new vision for multiracial democracy, one which we have made strides toward, however imperfectly and with setbacks (I like Obama's framing of US history on this matter).

GLaude shows that Baldwin and other civil rights activists were crushed and radicalized by the backlash of the 60s and 70s, especially the killing of MLK, but we today don't have to repeat that process, as it did very little to actually help African-Americans. (As Thurgood Marshall once pointedly asked, what exactly did Malcolm X do? What did he achieve?). Glaude also treats the conservative backlash politics of the 60s as entirely about race, which is hugely reductionist, given the role of crime, Vietnam, drugs, the counter-culture, anti-statism, debates in education about things like school prayer, and so on. Yes, Nixon and Reagan used racist dog-whistles and so on, but this backlash wasn't Jim Crow.

Glaude's framing is dramatic but ahistorical, and I think it does the cause of anti-racism harm. We need to identify progress and success so we can analyze what went right; we need to look for principles and strategies and rhetoric that we can build on, adapt, and emulate today. Historians can't do this, but this isn't a history book; this is political theory and advocacy. The best thinkers (Lincoln, Douglass, FDR, King, Obama) in our history have adapted and re-appropriated core principles (sometimes innovating and adding new ones) that I understand as liberal and humanitarian in order to apply a vision of equality, dignity, liberty, and opportunity that the vast majority of Americans share to an ever wider circle of people. Some do this inside politics, others outside. Some insist on change now, others see incrementalism as wiser and more realistic. All approaches are needed. But Glaude's approach seems to see any invocation of progress as white self-congratulations and justification for continued inequalities. I see it as the opposite, and I ask how liberals and progressives are going to motivate Americans to learn, heal, and act in the name of justice without any sense of historical progress or a usable past to build on? In short, a lot of this book is just intellectualized pessimism more than a coherent argument that can convince anyone who is not already converted.

Given the length of this review, this book clearly got me thinking, so I'd probably call it a 2.5. Still, I would honestly just skip this one and read the Fire Next Time itself, which is shorter, more insightful, and more powerful. Glaude is an accomplished scholar, but this book needed better editing and a different framing.
Profile Image for Mark Hiser.
533 reviews15 followers
July 30, 2020
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 moved from Columbus, Ohio to a suburb in 1958, almost three years after my birth. When we moved there, its population was around 5,000. By 1970, the population was about 12,500.

Westerville had been a stop on the Underground Railroad and was an anti-slavery town. Still, it was not until I was in the seventh grade in 1968 that I came to know, and be friends with, a Black person. I remember still that Rhonda and I often got in trouble for talking during history class.

When I realized it took more than 12 years for me to meet Rhonda, I decided to look through my seventh-grade yearbook. I counted fewer than a dozen Black persons out of my class of over 450 students.

Then, when I thought more about my awareness of what it meant to be American, I realized that what I learned in that history class about slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the on-going Civil Rights Movement was little more than an abstraction in my life. Today I could look back and claim I was young, but more truthfully, I was a white male in a white town and was encouraged by America’s myths and lies to be unaware of my privilege and the dark stain of racism upon which this country is built.

Since then I have tried to become more aware of the truth of this country, the role of my white ancestors, and my role as a white person in perpetuating white privilege and racism.

Both James Baldwin and Eddie Glaude question how a nation that claims to be Christian and states we are all created equal and are deserving of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness could have enslaved people. Both men also look at the consequences of America’s refusal to address this original sin.

Dr. Eddie Glaude, Jr, professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, writes that America has had two moments of moral reckoning when it could choose to be a white country or honor the vision of a country for all people: the Reconstruction period following the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. Today we are at a third moment.

With the Civil War, America had an opportunity to reimagine itself. Instead, it chose segregation, Jim Crow, and lynching.

Then, with the Civil Rights movement the country had another opportunity to look deep within and repent of its original sin of enslavement. Instead, it chose to kill the leaders of the movement and incarcerate Black people under the guise of “law and order” and the “war on drugs.”

Then, after the country elected its first Black president the country had an opportunity to elect a woman and continue to open the country to all people. Instead, it elected a man whose campaign was blatantly based on white supremacy that allowed separation of brown children from parents at the border and the police killing of Black persons.

Glaude, a Black man, says that out of his own rage and despair he revisited the writing of James Baldwin to see how to better cope. As he relates the life of Baldwin and analyzes his trajectory of thought, Glaude claims we now have a third opportunity to become an interracial country and realize our vision. Though he suspects we will again fail, he holds onto love and hope.

Glaude writes that “We need an America where 'becoming white' is no longer the price of the ticket. Instead, we should set out to imagine the country in the full light of its diversity and with an honest recognition of our sins.”

If we are to become a nation that reflects the ideals and vision of the country, we must not just change laws and rely on politicians, but must individually confront our own life and turn our back to the idea that white people are better than—and matter more—than all others. We must examine our institutions to see how our ingrained and inherited belief of white supremacy shape our schools, churches, places of employment and more. We must recognize how our myths turn our sin into goodness and allow us to claim innocence.

We must look at America considering its aspirations and its contradictions.

We are once again in a time of moral crisis in America. Baldwin and Glaude implore us to do the challenging work to find who we are and imagine who we want to be. And we must work to bring those moral aspirations to reality. As Glaude writes, “Who and what we choose to exclude exposes the limits of our ideas of justice...Baldwin did not call for a third American founding. Instead, he worked tirelessly for what he called the New Jerusalem. To my mind, there is little difference between the two. Both call for a world and a society that reflect the value that all human life—no matter the color of your skin, your zip code, your gender, or who you love—is sacred… Whatever happens next is up to us."

This is a "must-read" book.
Profile Image for Marc.
208 reviews22 followers
February 24, 2023
This book has had a profound impact on me and the way I view my country, its history, and where we are today. I'm still processing and will be for quite some time. I want to revisit the James Baldwin books I have already read as well as read the ones that I haven't read yet. I highly recommend this book and it's one that I will read again.
Profile Image for Barry.
861 reviews32 followers
December 17, 2020
Too much Glaude, not enough Baldwin.

I was hoping for more analysis of, and meditation on, Baldwin’s thoughts, but Glaude uses Baldwin more as a springboard to expound on his own ideas.
I would recommend reading Baldwin first. Or maybe just Baldwin instead.

2 stars = “this book is okay”
Profile Image for LindaJ^.
2,134 reviews6 followers
November 24, 2020
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 rights and stop the war movements; now we have Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements, and a pandemic. Tensions were high in the 60's and tensions are high, if not higher, now. I was a teenager in the 1960's and did my share of antiwar marches in the late 60's ("Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"). I'm older today and haven't marched in protest for a couple or more decades. I support the right to undertake peaceful protest marches and peaceful civil disobedience. I'm not in favor of violence, even to combat violence.

I remember watching the clips of the early civil rights protest marches on CBS nightly news with Walter Cronkite. The image of pregnant Black women being kicked in the stomach by white policemen was burned into my consciousness. I could not fathom how a man with body armor and a gun could kick a weaponless, armorless, pregnant woman laying on the ground in the stomach. I was a young white teen in Maine, where in the early 1960's you did not see any racial diversity. My biggest awareness of diversity was the haves versus the have nots, where have not meant no food. But there was a lot worse than that going on.

This book is just one of the non-fiction books I chose to read in November that are shedding light on the current mess by looking at US history. Among the others read and to be read are His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, Strom Thurmond's America, and A Promised Land. I have been alive for a large part of the years these books cover but they are providing different perspectives of those years and causing me to reconsider many things.

I like the way the author wrote this book. He provides a picture of Baldwin that I would never have been able to draw. He explains what "the lie" is and now I have some appreciation of its meaning. He speaks of "the after times" that he thought were over with the election of Barack Obama but now realizes are still present. He bares himself in this book, which I expect was extremely difficult to do but also somewhat cathartic. This is a book well worth reading and rereading at this point in the US.
Profile Image for Lulu.
842 reviews111 followers
February 14, 2021
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.
Profile Image for Patty.
37 reviews2 followers
July 8, 2020
There’s no more prescient book for today than this.
Profile Image for Roger DeBlanck.
Author 6 books121 followers
January 2, 2021
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 privileged condition. Glaude has taken his own disappointments with America and transformed them into the constructive artistic endeavor of excavating the depths of Baldwin’s genius and foresight in addressing the disaster America has made out of race and how we can find a way to solve it. Glaude makes Baldwin’s message resonate with its vitality and importance more than ever to help us address the nightmare we are enduring and, hopefully, will survive.

Glaude explains how Baldwin implored his fellow sisters and brothers of color to promise never to accept the stigma that White America inflicts upon them. His pledge back to his people was that if they refused to be labeled and degraded, he would always fight with them and never betray them the way Whites had done. For Baldwin, his responsibility as a writer, he believed, was to confront and expose the lies of America’s sacred ideas that its history has been without fault and that everyone is already equal. Baldwin gave his life and work to bearing witness to the lie of American democracy that has made White lives more valuable than Black lives. But Baldwin also understood clearly that when Whites defined and debased Blacks as inferior, what they really did was define and debase themselves as the bigots they are.

Glaude makes clear that America’s lie involves the endless myths and narratives we internalize about America’s greatness and our progression towards a perfect democracy, but the lie perpetuates through the “broad and powerful architecture of false assumptions by which the value gap is maintained,” whereby White lives are deemed to matter more than Black lives. Glaude explains how the lie pushes forth the idea that America is “fundamentally good and innocent, its bad deeds dismissed as mistakes corrected on the way to a ‘more perfect union.’” Baldwin witnessed how America shunned change and sought instead a return to the days when Blacks accepted their fate and didn’t demand too much. White America and Trump seek to foil any efforts for change in order to preserve the lie of America’s eternal goodness and greatness.

Glaude assesses how Trump has fomented a base of Whites, perhaps 40 percent of America, in order to reassert “the lie that black and brown people threatened their way of life, and now they were poised to make America White again.” I agree with Glaude that voters often determine their support in alliance with the lies Americans tell themselves about Blacks, Muslims, Mexicans, and immigrants. The tragedy results when Black people or any minority are deemed radicals when they stand up and declare that America can improve in its quest for better equality and justice. Glaude explains how the fear possessed by White America is that if genuine democracy succeeds, their Whiteness will lose value and they will have to give up their symbolic dominance. This ridiculous psychology, this fear, prevents real change from ever happening because Whites fight back to retain their privilege under the guise of fighting for freedom.

Baldwin assessed that one reason people cling so hard to their hatred is because they sensed once they abandoned their hatred, they would be left to deal with the pain of their own problems. Baldwin believed each of us has an ability to assess who we take ourselves to be. Therefore, regardless what America lies about, we have the last word attesting to who we are. That is why Baldwin always rejected racism along with the idea that Black people need to fix themselves. He saw clearly how America functions on the contradiction between its devotion to democracy and freedom and its actual practice of slavery and White supremacy. When White America complains about problems with Blacks, they are really complaining about the problems they have with themselves. Baldwin saw how Whites made themselves insane over what to do with what they invented as the “Negro problem.”

In examining the pain and trauma Baldwin experienced, Glaude identifies how America today lives with a “legacy of trauma” and an “inheritance of sin.” The tragedy in America is that we refuse to confront our trauma and sins because they expose the lie of White supremacy. Instead of facing the lie, we shift blame and chose the route of utilizing “national rituals of expiation” to alleviate our guilt, such as MLK Day and heritage month celebrations. We claim we now treat Blacks better, but then we mount new attacks on Muslims, immigrants, and migrant workers in order to solidify White supremacy as an instrument of security and safety that we believe will lead to a more perfect union.

Baldwin fought to dismantle the terrible lie of how White America refused to believe any other story except the one of America’s greatness. To keep believing their lie, White supremacists justify their hatred and fantasize their own reality. Baldwin witnessed how White Southerners continued to lie about how Blacks were inferior, yet these same White declared themselves Christians. Therefore, Baldwin took up the role and responsibility to speak for the voiceless and force the world to pay attention to the tragedy of injustice in America.

Baldwin shifted his focus from the concerns over the militancy of Black Power to a condemnation of the country that had produced and made necessary such action. Glaude shares with us how bereft Baldwin became over how America had killed Martin Luther King Jr. Whites killed him over what, Baldwin lamented, the fact that King was a man of love and nonviolence? For Baldwin, King’s death revealed the degree and of peril and derangement that stalked around unleashed in America.

Glaude makes clear how the racial nightmare in America comes more from Whites who refuse to give ground and do what is right than from Blacks who protest to demand the attention of White America. The tragedy is when protests turn riotous. Glaude further points out how the difficulty in making change in America comes as a result of Whites claiming that any admission of past evils is too harsh a narrative to embrace, so they refuse to accept the facts and reality of history. American nationalism is nothing more than a code for White identity over all else.

With all his life experiences that led him to rage and depression over the racial injustice in America, Baldwin still believed in working to save America. He believed our country needed an unprecedented reinvention where we created ourselves without creating enemies. Baldwin understood how the shallowness and harmfulness of putting ourselves into rigid identities and categories destroys our ability to acknowledge our complexity as human beings. Baldwin maintained that the race problem is a White problem, and not a problem with something wrong with Black people, because he understood clearly that racism is invented by humans. Labels, identities, and categories cage us in and shut us off from each other and make us blind to the beauty of others.

Baldwin came to the realization that his hating of anyone was, indeed, a waste of time, but he could not reconcile why does hating never become a waste of time for White America. In trying to make sense of this tragic phenomena, Glaude addresses the folly over how we should reach out to Trump voters just because they proclaim themselves forgotten and left behind due to the progress of America wanting to talk about living wages, universal healthcare, affordable education, women’s equality, LGBTQ rights, and a fair justice system, as if progress in these areas somehow victimizes and excludes Trumpers and working-class White people.

Baldwin believed we could move towards ending our racial nightmare by becoming vulnerable and attempting to love one other. Baldwin’s sorrow came from knowing he felt free only in battle, even as he also knew such a twisted freedom never allowed for rest, and survival is impossible without rest from the nightmare. That is why he always felt exiled in America because although he may have been a citizen of America, he never felt part of the country. He sought out Paris and Istanbul as places where he could find rest and do his vital work of calling America to a reckoning over how we are ever going to solve the race problem in America.

This leads Glaude back to our current crisis where I agree entirely with him about the horror we face. He says, “One of the more insidious features of Trumpism is that it deliberately seeks to occupy every ounce of our attention. In doing so, it aims to force our resignation to the banality of evil and the mundaneness of cruelty.” Trump foments anxiety in Whites that they are victims who have been forgotten and who do not have a spokesman. He takes up the helm of their racist cause by telling them that White people matter more than others.

With so much hatred in our politics and culture, Glaude steers us towards needing to “actively cultivate communities of love that allow us to imagine different ways of being together.” Baldwin may be able to instruct us to see the perils that besiege us and how progress is an illusion for many, but Glaude sees how if we want to face what is happening in America, especially in our criminal justice system, we must focus on admitting the connection between slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, and now mass incarceration. Baldwin, too, knew that if we want to understand how justice really works in America, we need to ask and listen to the most vulnerable of our citizens—the poor people and people of color.

With everything Glaude gains from Baldwin’s genius and foresight, he still has difficulty reconciling the sacrifices of those who fought for equality and justice with the reality of where America is at today. We still want to debate Confederate symbols against the fact of their representation of enslavement and lynching. How can anyone argue that celebrating the legacy of the Confederacy is somehow helpful for America? To the contrary, the argument proves how unhealthy our country still is.

If we truly want healing and progress to occur, we need to turn our focus to embracing projects like the vital importance of the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial of Peace and Justice (aka the Lynching Memorial). Glaude takes us to these profound places where we can be reminded that our traditional, standard story of American innocence and progress is incorrect. Both the museum and memorial remind us that reconciliation requires truth. Glaude gives us the truth: “But to view Trump in the light of the lynching memorial in Alabama is to understand him in the grand sweep of American history: He and his ideas are not exceptional. He and the people who support him are just the latest examples of the country’s ongoing betrayal.”

Furthermore, Glaude makes this truth clear: “The lie is the lifeblood of Trumpism. Anything that does not corroborate its reality is dismissed as ‘fake news.’ Anyone who doesn’t fit the view of America as a white nation or refuses to submit to it is cast as a traitor or as someone who hates America.” Glaude offers a solution for how we can move forward out of this disaster that Trump has exacerbated. Glaude believes love can be found in accepting both the beauty and ugliness of ourselves in order for us to embrace our vulnerability and seek communion with one another. This can only begin to happen if we cease with the long falsehood of glorifying and taking pride in any progress we’ve made in America at the tragic expense of refusing to admit the appalment at how slow and cruel the process of making any progress has been.

Begin Again is Glaude’s vital contribution of sharing with us his passion for how the lessons Baldwin teaches us about the nightmare of race in America can guide us in healing by recognizing our faults. If we can admit to our lies, we can begin to move forward with real and lasting change. The back and forth between moments in Baldwin’s life made Glaude’s examination of Baldwin’s message a little redundant at times, but this is hardly a criticism because Glaude’s concerns for America resonate with such passion and honesty that his every statement is composed like the thoughtfulness of a poem. In this regard, Glaude both channels and revitalizes Baldwin’s responsibility as a writer to bear witness to the truth in order to bring about attention and hopefully enact change.
Profile Image for Hilary.
295 reviews16 followers
November 22, 2020
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.
1 review
July 8, 2020
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 opinions of these works one holds, Glaude certainly combats any attempt to attach those to Begin Again. In this present work, Glaude tasked himself with providing a window through which Baldwin’s America can be seen by offering plainly lessons this vista might provide. This book has masterfully exposed Baldwin while also developing further the themes of Glaude’s own ideology to provide a text that is not only useful for Baldwin readers, but simultaneously providing and additional point of reference for today’s activists, whether progressive or radical in kind. Glaude’s seminal ideas, which include the value gap, democracy in black, and the humanist notion of becoming our better selves, come to the fore as they provide connectivity to his past works. But Glaude moves beyond these boundaries to provide still another window, one he calls after times. This window cast a shaft of light from the post civil rights period onto our present moment. This, I find the crux of the work, even if unintentional.

This work contains beautiful prose, is free from academic jargon, achieving its goal of matching Baldwin’s and Coltrane’s highs and lows by “gesturing to the past, abruptly turning to the present,” creating a new awareness in the reader of the possibility of a “love supreme.” T.S. Eliot wrote in a 1944 essay “What Is a Classic?,” that classic works make references to other classic works and pivotal moments in the of a culture, using these references to write themselves into this classic lineage or into the central ideas of a mature culture. References in Glaude’s work to historic moments and other groundbreaking works from the past are scrupulously used justly meeting T.S. Eliot’s requirement for a classic work. This book is certainly a multiple-read.
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