Saturday, January 6, 2024

The first time I remember Richard Wright’s Native Son book was when Cole Brown – a former guest on my podcast–chose it as one of his lonely island books. I read and loved a number of books that Cole had recommended to me, including the powerful and poignant Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and the Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. And when I was flipping through the many unread volumes in my apartment the other day, I quickly landed on Richard Wright’s most famous novel and settled down to read it, not really knowing what I was getting into.

Native Son Book Review

Similar to Cole’s other recommendations, there is no doubt that Native Son is a sobering read. Published more than eighty years ago, both enduring and critical responses from many other African-American writers, including–perhaps most famously – James Baldwin’s Notes on a native son. Native Son tells the story of poor 20-year-old bigger Thomas, who lives in a poor neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago in the 1930s.

Shortly after the story begins, Bigger finds work as a chauffeur for the Daltons – a local elite family that is actively working to help the black community by hiring them as domestic servants.

From the very beginning I read with a great feeling of concern and unhappiness – because although I did not know exactly what was coming (having somehow completely avoided the blurb).

I knew that it would not be good. Suffice it to say that a crime is committed – albeit in a sense by chance, and what follows is a biting narrative, since the crime and the consequences are getting out of control.

One of the biggest surprises for me when reading Native Son was both how contemporary it was and how indescribable it was. Because although I found much of Native Son alarming, terrible, and difficult to read due to the nature of its content, it was also an intense, nail-biting book that I couldn’t put down even if I wanted to.

A book that deals with topics that are terribly still current and widespread – from racism to police brutality to the way black bodies are exploited even in passed away – it’s a story that not only comes hard to my mind long after I’ve finished reading it; but it’s also a book that I think absolutely everyone should read.

Summary of the native son

From the very beginning, Bigger Thomas had gone to cage. It could have been for assault or petty theft; luckily it was for execute and Violation. Native Son tells the story of this young black man who is trapped in a downward spiral after killing a young white woman in a brief moment of panic.

Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright’s powerful novel is a tireless reflection on the poverty and hopelessness of the people of the country’s inner cities and what it means to be black in America.

Further reading
I loved that on the Guardian “it couldn’t be more relevant’: Richard Wright’s unseen novel is finally getting its due.

Biography of the author Richard Wright
Richard Nathaniel Wright was an African-American author of powerful, sometimes disputable novels, short stories and non-fiction books. Much of his literature dealt with racial issues. His work helped to shape the discussions of race relations in America in the mid-20th century.

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