Richard Wright Rite of Passage

ISBN 13: 9780060234201

Rite of Passage

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9780060234201: Rite of Passage

Harlem. The late 1940s. Fifteen-year-old Johnny Gibbs loves his parents, respects his teachers, and is a model student. Suddenly, his familiar world falls apart. Johnny learns he is really a foster child who the welfare authorities have decreed now must go and live with another family. Stunned by the revelation, Johnny runs away. The startling events that follow, during Johnny's nightlong confrontation with alienation and loneliness, will inexorably push him past the frontiers of childhood and into an unknown, violent world beyond. Rite of Passage, Richard Wright's never-before-published story of Johnny Gibbs's fall from grace, is as pertinent to the fate of many young people today as it was when it was first conceived nearly fifty years ago.

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About the Author:

Richard Wright won international renown for his powerful and visceral depiction of the black experience. He stands today alongside such African-American luminaries as Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison, and two of his books, Native Son and Black Boy, are required reading in high schools and colleges across the nation. He died in 1960.



David Diaz has illustrated numerous award-winning books for children, including smoky night by Eve Bunting, for which he was awarded the Caldecott Medal; The Wanderer by Sharon Creech, which received a Newbery Honor; and Me, Frida by Amy Novesky, a Pura Belpré Honor Award winner. Mr. Diaz lives in Southern California.

From Booklist:

Gr. 7-12. A newly discovered novella written by Wright in the 1940s evokes today's urban violence and also the "cold wet shelterless midnight streets" of Dickens' Oliver Twist. Johnny, a gifted 15-year-old student, runs away from his loving Harlem home when he discovers that he's really a foster child and that the faceless city bureaucracy is moving him to a new family. Suddenly alone on the streets, hungry, and lost, he survives with a brutal gang, fights the leader for dominance, and helps mug a man in the park. As the title suggests, this is an archetypal story of the loss of identity and the search for manhood. There's some overwriting at times, with far too many adverbs ("guiltily," "bawlingly," "dreadfully," etc.); a few minor characters are stereotyped; and the symbolism about crossing the barrier of childhood is overexplained. But the story is taut and terrible, and the account of Johnny trapped in a bleak, hostile city will hold teens fast. They'll also recognize the ironic truth of Johnny's friend who envies him the chance to break free of family. Opposed to the corrupt adults (including the police) who pay the kids to steal is the figure of an African American woman who calls out to Johnny in moral outrage for the crime of mugging an innocent person. Real or imaginary, she haunts Johnny. He wishes she would find him and bring him home. The eminent critic Arnold Rampersad, in a long, insightful afterword, shows how this story integrates many themes of Wright's work, including the relationship between racism, poverty, and violent crime. Hazel Rochman

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Richard Wright
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Richard Wright
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