"The truth about the past is not that it is too brief, or too superficial, but only that we, having turned our faces so resolutely away from it, have never demanded from it what it has to give," wrote James Baldwin in his essay "A Question of Identity," published in The Price of the Ticket. James Baldwin (1924-1987), the internationally acclaimed writer who wrote brilliantly and sometimes bitterly about what it meant to be human in the 20th century in books that topped bestsellers lists and who won a Eugene Saxton Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the French Legion of Honor, was a supremely distinguished writer, something many of us know and something some of the essays in James Baldwin Now state and in certain cases explain why and how; other essays in the book try to claim him for narrow social categories and current, transient political viewpoints — they take from him less than he has to give. James Baldwin’s values were courage, fairness, honesty, compassion, the importance of knowing humanity, reality, and tenderness; and he looked for ambiguity, complexity, and recognition of human pain in conversation, art, and politics, in the belief that these were not only intrinsically interesting but led to the possibility of wisdom, healing, and community.Baldwin — no separatist — had close lasting friendships with women, personal friends like Orilla Miller and Mary Painter and with literary colleagues such as Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, despite his ongoing pursuit of an ideal "romantic" relation with a man (never found), a pursuit that seems rooted in the absence of his biological father and his stepfather’s brutal rejection of him. Pulitzer and Nobel prize-winning author Toni Morrison (Beloved), one of the most significant writers this country has ever produced, has said of Baldwin, "You gave me a language to dwell in, a gift so perfect it seems my own invention," echoing what millions have felt.\ A TALK TO TEACHERS
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