James Baldwin grew disillusioned by the failure of the civil rights movement to force America to confront its lies about race. In our own moment, when that confrontation feels more urgently needed than ever, what can we learn from his struggle? Begin Again follows Baldwin's life and work, to bear witness to the difficult truth of race in America today.
... a book that is perfect for Baldwin aficionados or anyone experiencing staggering disbelief at America’s state of disarray and trying to make sense of it. What sets this account apart is that Glaude understands how Baldwin’s writing becomes a pathway for one’s own thoughts; he’s able to synthesise the novelist’s work in a way that transcends summation or homage and becomes instead an act of breathtaking literary assimilation that acquires its own generative power ... It is a scholarly, deeply personal, and yet immensely readable meditation, a masterful reckoning with the 'latest betrayal' of the American ideal.
... a potent meditation on the enduring legacy of Baldwin’s life and thought, a New York Times bestseller and one of a number of titles that have spoken to the soul of public outrage at George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis last May ... 'What we are living through,' Glaude writes of the current context, 'even with our cellphone cameras, is not unlike what Baldwin and so many others dealt with as the black freedom movement collapsed with the ascent of the Reagan revolution.' Baldwin’s response demonstrates the resilience that’s needed to be a witness through an era of despair ... Glaude challenges this convention with conviction. He invites us with him to 'read Baldwin to the end' and reveals a writer, not spent, but rather illuminating the path beyond despair – the work of a saint if ever there was such a thing. This witness through the dark times, which Glaude argues are upon us once again, is, he says, the true measure of Baldwin’s greatness: an enduring testament to his love and the belief that the US can and must be something more than it is.
Glaude is more explicit about looking to Baldwin not just for perspective and inspiration but for instruction and guidance ... Glaude is up to something bigger than his own summary allowed. Where a number of writers have paid ample tribute to Baldwin’s essays from the late ’50s and early ’60s, during the early years of the civil rights movement, Glaude finds energy and even solace in the later nonfiction that charted Baldwin’s disillusionment ... Even if you don’t agree with Glaude’s interpretations, you’ll find yourself productively arguing with them. He parses, he pronounces, he cajoles. He spurs you to revisit Baldwin’s work yourself ... Glaude’s defense of Baldwin’s trajectory is more cultural than literary. He imputes a political discomfort to critiques like Als’s that isn’t entirely fair, but he writes ardently and protectively ... The idea isn’t to return the country to what it was before President Trump; Glaude wants a wholesale re-envisioning, not a complacent restoration.