Sandy Nawrot's Reviews > Native Son

Native Son by Richard Wright
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's review
Dec 21, 2013

it was amazing
bookshelves: audio

I've given a lot of thought to this book, claimed by some to be one of the greatest American novels ever written. And it is very hard to verbalize my reaction to it. I guess some words that come to mind are "emotional", "haunted" and "disturbed". I've not read something that so vividly portrays the great divide between whites and blacks in my life (not even To Kill a Mockingbird), and the kicker is that it was written in 1940. Richard Wright storms right into the muck, unflinchingly taking on every Big Question of racism from the perspective of a poor, angry, downtrodden black man, Bigger Thomas. I found myself instantly irritated with Bigger. He has no empathy for anyone, he has no sense of right and wrong, he lacks ambition, and he hates white people. But whose fault is it, when he has lived in squalor his entire life, has been told he is worth nothing, and is given a claustrophobic perimeter within which he must live? I loathed the two young wealthy "communists" who naively try to befriend him, having no clue that their differences were not that easy to fix. I could not stand the general attitude of the whites that surrounded Bigger, who assumed he was stupid, feral and a natural-born killer and rapist. Ironically the one true hero that steps forward in this whole mess was a Jewish communist sympathizer that acts as Bigger's legal council. He is the only Christian in the bunch.

While the first part of the book feels like a thriller, with horrifying details of Bigger's crimes and flight from the law, the second half was the one that knocked me flat on my back. There are monologues here, from both Bigger and his lawyer Mr. Max in the courtroom, that tackle some tough issues we still wrestle with today, monologues that were almost too much for me to get my head around and were way ahead of their time. This is some seriously powerful stuff, and while it often was a very unpleasant reading experience, it was equally awe-inspiring and moving. The audio was impeccably narrated by Peter Francis James, who portrayed both whites and blacks in this story in an award-worthy performance.
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Reading Progress

December 21, 2013 – Started Reading
December 21, 2013 – Shelved
December 21, 2013 – Shelved as: audio
January 7, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Stacy (new) - added it

Stacy Excellent review. Featuring this classic on my blog tomorrow. It stays with you, doesn't it?

Sandy Nawrot Really an incredible read. I'm still thinking about it today! I can totally imagine myself re-reading it some day. I'll look for your review.

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