➳ [Reading] ➶ Black Boy: A Record of Youth and Childhood By Richard Wright ➩ – Uroturk.info

Hunger Humiliation Hate Hurt How to describe the life of a poor, uneducated boy in the Jim Crow South between the world wars Possibly, he would have led a less vulnerable life, had he been able to tune out his intelligence and his sensitivity Possibly, he would have fared better if he hadn t been born to see human beings beyond the colour of their skin and their power to hurt But he was born free, and therefore a target.A target in his own family, where he was punished for his lack of submission to the demeaning rituals of religion This business of saving souls had no ethics every human relationship was shamelessly exploited In essence, the tribe was asking us whether we shared its feelings if we refused to join the church, it was equivalent to saying no, to placing ourselves in the position of moral monsters The hierarchy of religious submission, kept in place by emotional blackmail, is mirrored in the god given segregation and exploitation of African Americans by white supremacists on all levels of interaction Keep your head down, smile and bow to the white population, and you may be spared, if you are lucky Show a white person that you do not believe in their right to mistreat you, and you will be lynched Even if you submit physically to the commands of your tribe and of the white community, it is not enough Walking upright and thinking for yourself is a danger in itself, even if you stick to the rules As Orwell put it you have to LOVE Big Brother Thou shalt not think That is the commandment that Richard Wright learns as a beaten, hungry, neglected child You can kill and steal and drink and cheat, but you cannot think Thinking or putting thoughts on paper, or taking help from books to further develop thinking skills is punishable with excommunication or death, both in the religious community of the own tribe and in the terror regime of racism.But what are you to become if you have a sense of human dignity and social justice You act around white people as if you didn t know that they are white And they see it Oh Christ, I can t be a slave , I said hopelessly But you ve got to eat , he said Yes, I got to eat Following Richard Wright s path to breaking free from the dilemma of being human and having to eat is a chilling reading experience, one that reminds us why we can t shrug off the rising voices of tribalism as fringe phenomena They are not And they use the fact that hunger or need can drive a person to do many things The indignity of being hungry creates the power vacuum that plays into the hands of a privileged tribe The miracle is that Wright survived his childhood and grew up to be able to tell his story In that sense, it is a story of hope for humanity If you can find a way to fake a library card to borrow books in a town where African Americans are excluded from the right to gain knowledge from reading, if you can save money to buy a train ticket out of hell, if you can find enough things worth living for to never give up, then you send a message of hope What was the turning point in Richard Wright s life Storytelling The stories he read, the stories he wrote, the stories he heard, the stories he made up for a better future Storytelling is food for humanity Yes, I got to eat. Black Boy is the book that made me fall in love with reading I was in Italy with my family on spring break and I was required to read Black Boy for my english class This book pulled me in I remember walking around Italy with my nose in the book, barely looking up I made my step dad stop in a bookstore so I could buy books by Richard Wright I read Native Son next As Black Boy is Wright s autobiography, I was enthralled with Richard Wright s life and how he was able to escape the hardships and pains of his life by reading and getting absorbed into the story of someone else s life I needed that escape at that point in my life and Wright taught me that when life is hard and you don t want to think about your reality any, you can always pick up a good book. Professor Amy Hungerford points out in her Open Yale lectures there is a certain amount of well founded doubt as to the absolute accuracy of this work as an autobiography Wright, however, does not claim this as his life, but rather as a Record of Youth and Childhood, the tale of a Black Boy growing up in the Southern States between the two World Wars Thus a generic life There can be no doubt whatsoever about its emotional authenticity I read this with a kind of ghastly horrified fascination, thinking only what a dreadful time and place for an intelligent young black man to be alive As a boy, Richard is routinely, relentlessly, habitually beaten by his mother and his grandmother, and later the same kind of treatment is attempted by an uncle and an aunt But this is no mawkish misery memoir of the kind that seemed to dominate the bestseller lists for a while, spawning a whole spate of copycat accounts of dubious provenance, this is not the uplifting tale of one person s triumph over adversity No, this is generic that kind of upbringing was the best intentioned attempt by Richard s family to beat out of him a characteristic that might prove fatal to a black man living under the Jim Crow statutes a sense of self worth An attitude that the whites might perceive to be sassy Richard is beaten for being lippy, for talking back, for claiming that there is a version of the truth that he sees and that may be at odds with the truth of authority All untenable, dangerous positions for a black man to take His mother and grandmother know the only way for a black man to survive by turning into a childish buffoon or a servile idiot, the roles expected by that white culture that surrounds them They recognize, too, the danger that a rebellious young man may find the only outlet for his aspirations the creativity of crime, how best to cheat and steal, and they take refuge in exaggerated religiosity that offers rules but no comfort Certainly Richard can find nothing for himself there.Prof Hungerford also tells the publication history of this work it was originally one third longer than the version I read, was written in two parts Southern Night is basically what we have here, and The Horror and the Glory , which follows Richard after he moved to Chicago in 1927, at the age of nineteen At the time of its publication in 1944, the Book of the Month Club is a hugely influential marketing tool, and their board decides that they don t want the second section at all, and in fact that is what Richard Wright agrees to But what difference does this make Well, any novel of this kind can be seen as a Bildungsroman, the story of a youth and his development to manhood The point is that manhood cannot be attained in that place at that time Richard needs a second childhood in Chicago in order to attain that state of autonomous, thinking individual whose opinion is sought and valued In Jackson, even in Memphis urban he is required to remain a child in order to survive His first venture into the white world of work illustrates this clearly Do you want this job the woman asked Yes, ma am, I said, afraid to trust my own judgement Now, boy, I want to ask you one question and I want you to tell me the truth, she said Yes, ma am, I said, all attention Do you steal she asked me seriously.I burst into a laugh and then checked myself What s so damn funny about that she asked Lady, if I was a thief, I d never tell anybody p 145 Richard realises his mistake immediately he has recognized the naivety of the question, has betrayed his shock at an attitude of mind that will not even allow him the subtlety of intellect to see the possibility of telling a self serving untruth when necessary He sees that white people want to keep him and other black men in their place and their place is that of a subservient child, or even an animal like plaything for the amusement of the whites He has to get out of the South, not only because his ego is in danger of going under, but, as is constantly brought home, he is in mortal danger Lynchings are part of his reality.How does he survive, how does he manage to emerge from this Stories First reading, initially escapist fantasies, and then also writing Then later, through a subterfuge with a library ticket, as he is not allowed to borrow from the library himself, he reads voraciously, finding that it was out of the emotional impact of imaginative construction of heroic or tragic deeds, that I felt touching my face a tinge of warmth from an unseen light and in my leaving I was groping toward that invisible light, always trying to keep my face so set and turned that I would not lose the hope of its faint promise, using it as my justification for action p.260 261 The aspirational power of literature is what saves him it offers him the idea of another world, a world that he, too, can be part of. I felt something shift in me as a reader as I neared the end of Wright s autobiography Where he began relating his experiences of, and delineating his theoretical disagreements with, the Communist party in Chicago, my experience of reading became less interactive, less organic, and to some degree, less interesting I think I stopped making personal connections to the material I was no longer reading to discover what feelings, ideas, or insights his story would incite in me Instead, I began engaging with his words on an intellectual level, processing the points of his argument and accepting some and rejecting others It occurred to me, that at this point in the book, his style changed, and this observation allowed me to ponder again something that Phillip had said about my first workshop submission that my writing in that piece tended to the sociological than to the literary One of the ways I ve come to understand that comment is through Virginia Woolf s observation in A Room of One s Own that when a book lacks suggestive power, however hard it hits the surface of the mind it cannot penetrate within Some books simply educate, while others enlighten by allowing the reader s experience to mix with those on the page Or, some, like Wright s, begin in a brilliant literary vein but veer off when the writer becomes too didactic. Black Boy Is A Classic Of American Autobiography, A Subtly Crafted Narrative Of Richard Wright S Journey From Innocence To Experience In The Jim Crow South An Enduring Story Of One Young Man S Coming Of Age During A Particular Time And Place, Black Boy Remains A Seminal Text In Our History About What It Means To Be A Man, Black, And Southern In America I hesitated between 3 and 4 stars for Black Boy I felt that it was similar in structure to Invisible Man by Ellison but the writing, in my opinion was inferior Like Ellison, the novel starts with Wright s childhood in the South deserted by his father and always hungry the original title was American Hunger he teaches himself to read a dangerous occupation for a black person in the South of the 20s and discovers and suffers from poverty and racism However, the narrative was quite plodding in the beginning and only really interested me when he started reading Sinclair Lewis, Proust and Dostoyevsky When he is a little older, he manages to move north, but unlike the Invisible Man, he chooses Chicago where he has family rather than Harlem He has a conflictual relationship with the Communist Party there from which he is ultimately rejected The book ends rather suddenly after this rejection Perhaps Wright s message and intent in writing this memoir is best summed up a quote from Part 2 in Chapter XV, but sharing the culture that condemns him, and seeing that a lust for trash is what blinds the nation to his claims, is what sets storms to rolling in his soul It is not a very optimistic book and sorry to be repetitive I really found Invisible Man far engaging and even deeper when exploring the same themes of racism s deep corruption of everything it touches and how black intellectuals had to struggle against white supremacists as well as a slavery damaged Black community which to a great extent had lost their dignity a dignity that both Wright and Ellison fought to restore during both of their careers It is fair to say that without Wright and Ellison, there would have never been a MLK or Obama. i m in the minority minority heh heh in finding this book superior to ellison s invisible man it might not be as daring, might lack the touch of modernist irony, but sometimes ya gotta shove all that aside and recognize a great book for just being a great book something ellison s book just ain t. I would give a million stars to this book if I could Richard Wright lived from 1908 to 1960, the book is an autobiography taking place from around 1912 to 1928 The book mainly focuses on Wrights childhood such as the abuse he suffered under his father, his mothers illness, having to move house constantly, the ever present threat of starvation and living as a young black boy in the South after the civil war As the story progresses, Richard is mistreated terribly by almost everyone around him He slowly learns through gruesome exposure that he is of a lower class to the whites who live in the city and pays the price many times for not acting like how a coloured man is supposed to act He is forced to fight and steal to earn his daily bread but while living with the threat of violence looming over him he teaches himself to read and write, picking up a great love of literature which set him on the path to breaking free of the cultural prison he is in As I understand it, this book as well as other books written by Wright where used as inspiration during the civil rights movements His life is extremely raw, painful, heart breaking and uncensored The account of what is was like to live in the South Jackson as a young black man is very difficult and upsetting at times to read There were points where I stopped, looked at my own hands I m white and cried for all those of coloured skin who suffered there whole lives at the hands of white greed This book was challenging, incredibly moving and thought provoking It is not glossy or defiant in the face of evil, you walk with Richard through a hell that he was forced into and you can only hope that he makes the jump to the North and in doing so, finds some peace at the end of the story 5 5 This book changed the world Thank you Mr Wright for not giving up on humanity x Did I seriously just start this book two days ago I lost track of time while I was reading this I just sort of fell into it, only coming up for air for pesky things like work And peeing.I m ashamed to say I haven t read anything by Richard Wright prior to this I ve been sitting on a few of his books, not really sure what I was waiting for I decided to start with this one as it s a memoir and I figured a good a place as any to get a feel for an author Now I m glad I did so I learned quite a good deal about Wright, starting from the age of four when he accidentally started his grandparents house on fire and finishing somewhere in his twenties after his stint with the Communist Party.There s a lot in between too, all blanketed in hunger, violence, racial tensions, and fear It s not a pleasant read, but hard to put down once started There s a lot of uncomfortable material regarding things that were done or said to Wright, certainly but there s also a lot of uncomfortable material regarding things that Wright did and said He was not shy in his hate of white people, aside from maybe one or two exceptions detailed in this book.But it s those things that make this such an important book for everyone to read There s a lot of uncomfortable things involving race in the news right now and always , and reading this book makes one realize so little has changed since the 1940s when this was published Wright doesn t offer any solutions here, though that was not his intention He just wanted to have a voice. Here s Richard Wright going door to door in the 1920s Jim Crow South trying to sell his dog for a dollar because he s starving A white lady offers him 97 cents and, feeling some distant surge of fury inside, he turns her down, goes home with his dog and his hunger A few days later view spoiler the dog gets run over by a coal truck, hide spoiler Black Boy: A Record of Youth and Childhood


About the Author: Richard Wright

Richard Nathaniel Wright was an African American author of powerful, sometimes controversial novels, short stories and non fiction Much of his literature concerned racial themes His work helped redefine discussions of race relations in America in the mid 20th century Librarian Note There is than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.


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