James Baldwin (Bloom's BioCritiques)

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9780791085752: James Baldwin (Bloom's BioCritiques)

The lives of the greatest writers of the world are explored in depth. In addition to a lengthy biography, an extensive critical analysis of the writer's work, as well as critical views by important literary critics throughout history.

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From School Library Journal:

Grade 9 Up-A comprehensive look at Baldwin's life and times. Kenan begins with a chapter-long description of a significant incident in his subject's life-a 1963 trip to Selma to aid in the black voter registration drive. Unfortunately, the author's conscientious provision of background information on the civil rights movement ultimately obscures Baldwin's part in that drama; thus, what should have been an interest-stimulating picture of a defining moment becomes an 11-page introduction. In chapter two, readers finally begin to get a picture of the world-renowned writer, political activist, and black gay man. The text is based on a wealth of published sources and includes frequent quotes drawn from Baldwin's works and his other biographers. This wealth (plus the absence of footnotes, which dictates that all source citations be made within the text itself) results in a dense narrative that may daunt some readers. The book's attractive format, however, reflects good choices for a YA audience, with numerous black-and-white photos, a list of Baldwin's works and a list for further reading, and a fairly detailed index. While the series title might suggest an exclusive focus on his sexual identity, this biography simply adds that perspective to the existing mosaic of his life with a candor that reflects Baldwin's own self-presentation. Previous studies written for young people make no mention of his sexual orientation. Kenan's book acts as a corrective, and libraries that already stock Lisa Rosset's James Baldwin (Chelsea, 1989) may want to acquire this one as well. It introduces young people to this eloquent witness to an individual and collective American minority experience.
Christine Jenkins, University of Illinois, Champaign
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A vivid, intelligent portrait of the outstanding author and African American, first of Chelsea's Lives of Notable Gay Men and Lesbians. The series' 29 announced subjects range from Sappho to Bayard Rustin, from Jane Addams to Liberace; its general editor, scholar Martin B. Duberman, describes it as providing young gays and lesbians with role models and ``a continuum of experience and achievement into which they can place themselves and lay claim to happy and productive lives.'' Kenan, an award-winning novelist (Let the Dead Bury Their Dead, 1993), presents Baldwin as a subtle, extraordinarily gifted man who realized early that bitterness toward his abusive stepfather--or toward whites--was deeply damaging to himself; reconciliation was his most persistent theme, though the love he experienced, and portrayed, was almost always conflicted. Kenan discusses Baldwin's groundbreaking early fiction and essays and his role in the civil rights struggle in some detail and is forthright but unspecific on his many, mostly anonymous, liaisons and about the alcohol and celebrity lifestyle that apparently diminished his creativity later on. Like his generously quoted subject, Kenan can be eloquent, though his complex sentences occasionally pose a challenge. The big lack here is sourcing, especially for the many quotes from those who knew Baldwin--inexcusable in an otherwise carefully wrought book. Still, a carefully nuanced overview of a fascinating figure. B&w photos; list of Baldwin's books; ``Further Reading'' (adult); chronology; index. (Biography. YA) -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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