Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “A powerful study of how to bear witness in a moment when America is being called to do the same.”—Time
James Baldwin grew disillusioned by the failure of the civil rights movement to force America to confront its lies about race. What can we learn from his struggle in our own moment?
One of the Best Books of the Year: Time, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune • One of Esquire’s Best Biographies of All Time • Winner of the Stowe Prize • Shortlisted for the Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice
“Not everything is lost. Responsibility cannot be lost, it can only be abdicated. If one refuses abdication, one begins again.”—James Baldwin
Begin Again is one of the great books on James Baldwin and a powerful reckoning with America’s ongoing failure to confront the lies it tells itself about race. Just as in Baldwin’s “after times,” argues Eddie S. Glaude Jr., when white Americans met the civil rights movement’s call for truth and justice with blind rage and the murders of movement leaders, so in our moment were the Obama presidency and the birth of Black Lives Matter answered with the ascendance of Trump and the violent resurgence of white nationalism.
In these brilliant and stirring pages, Glaude finds hope and guidance in Baldwin as he mixes biography—drawn partially from newly uncovered Baldwin interviews—with history, memoir, and poignant analysis of our current moment to reveal the painful cycle of Black resistance and white retrenchment. As Glaude bears witness to the difficult truth of racism’s continued grip on the national soul, Begin Again is a searing exploration of the tangled web of race, trauma, and memory, and a powerful interrogation of what we must ask of ourselves in order to call forth a new America.
Praise for Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own
“Begin Again is a groundbreaking and informative guide to Baldwin and his era.”—The Washington Post
“A rugged literary miracle.”—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
“Even if you don’t agree with Glaude’s interpretations, you’ll find yourself productively arguing with them. He parses, he pronounces, he cajoles. He spurs you to revisit Baldwin’s work yourself.”—The New York Times
“Not only is Baldwin brought rushing forth from the page, with all the beauty of his prose and complexity of his thought, but Glaude’s voice joins him with a force and clarity of its own. . . . Baldwin and Glaude offer us a path forward that is both exceedingly difficult and genuinely hopeful.”—The Post and Courier
“In the midst of an ugly Trump regime and a beautiful Baldwin revival, Eddie Glaude has plunged to the profound depths and [soared to the] sublime heights of Baldwin’s prophetic challenge to our present-day crisis.”—Cornel West, author of Democracy Matters and Race Matters
“Begin Again is . . . a timeless and spellbinding conversation between two brilliant writers.”—Edwidge Danticat, author of Brother, I’m Dying and Everything Inside
“One need not agree with everything in these pages to learn much from them, and for Americans seeking to understand our past, our present, and the possible futures before us, Begin Again challenges, illuminates, and points us toward, if not a more perfect union, at least a more just one.”—Jon Meacham, author of The Soul of America and Destiny and Power
“Glaude's work is urgent, pained, and strangely hopeful. He is issuing a call to reckoning: not just with the dishonesty of America's founding promises, but with the tolls that its intrinsic racism has taken on the artists and thinkers who have come before.”—Rebecca Traister, author of All the Single Ladies and Good and Mad
“James Baldwin is a man for our moment: in a time of Black Lives Matter, we’ve come to think about our past, our colonial history, enslavement, matters of race and identity. You’re left with an understanding of the extraordinary modernity, relevance, and the immense power of James Baldwin. It’s a simply wonderful book.”—Philippe Sands, author of East West Street
“The magic of Begin Again is that it allows us to ponder Baldwin both in his perilous era and in our own. Remarkable, and remarkably relevant.”—Tracy K. Smith, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Life on Mars
“Begin Again is an unparalleled masterpiece of social criticism. Glaude thinks alongside America’s finest essayist, matching the master’s firepower, brilliance, courage, and sensitivity at every turn.”—Imani Perry, author of Breathe and Looking for Lorraine
“In this powerful and elegant book, Glaude weaves together a biography, a meditation, a literary analysis, and a moral essay on America. . . . ”—Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci