Notes of a Native Son

  • by James Baldwin
  • Narrated by Ron Butler
  • 5 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

At last, a new audio edition of the book many have called James Baldwin's most influential work!
Written during the 1940s and early 1950s, when Baldwin was only in his twenties, the essays collected in Notes of a Native Son capture a view of black life and black thought at the dawn of the civil rights movement and as the movement slowly gained strength through the words of one of the most captivating essayists and foremost intellectuals of that era. Writing as an artist, activist, and social critic, Baldwin probes the complex condition of being black in America. With a keen eye, he examines everything from the significance of the protest novel to the motives and circumstances of the many black expatriates of the time, from his home in "The Harlem Ghetto" to a sobering "Journey to Atlanta."
Notes of a Native Son inaugurated Baldwin as one of the leading interpreters of the dramatic social changes erupting in the United States in the twentieth century, and many of his observations have proven almost prophetic. His criticism on topics such as the paternalism of white progressives or on his own friend Richard Wright's work is pointed and unabashed. He was also one of the few writing on race at the time who addressed the issue with a powerful mixture of outrage at the gross physical and political violence against black citizens and measured understanding of their oppressors, which helped awaken a white audience to the injustices under their noses. Naturally, this combination of brazen criticism and unconventional empathy for white readers won Baldwin as much condemnation as praise.
Notesis the book that established Baldwin's voice as a social critic, and it remains one of his most admired works. The essays collected here create a cohesive sketch of black America and reveal an intimate portrait of Baldwin's own search for identity as an artist, as a black man, and as an American.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Masterful Essayist

Would you listen to Notes of a Native Son again? Why?

I would listen to Notes of a Native Son again for the quality and depth of Baldwin's thoughts and writing. He set a high bar as an essayist on race.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

I found Baldwin's account of his father's funeral and his account of his trip to Switzerland compelling because they showed me different perspectives of race in America and abroad.

Which character – as performed by Ron Butler – was your favorite?

Baldwin himself was my favorite character as performed by Ron Butler. Butler did not mimic the distinctive way Baldwin talked, but told the story straight with depth and nuance.

Any additional comments?

I had read several of the essays before, but it was good to revisit them again in the different form of an audiobook. I highly recommend it.

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- Andre "I am a live storyteller who devours huge amounts of audio books to study classics and new books so I can tell new stories."


Who am I to judge a master writer like Baldwin? That said, here are my personal views. Some of these essays are superb. When Baldwin talks about his own life and experience the richness of thought is mesmerizing. On the other hand, some of the essay (e.g. Analysis of black media) lack a clear purpose other than to tear down everything in sight. The narration is good although slightly robotic. I'm not sure if that's necessary for narrating essays like these. The reading and recording is clear, which is crucial.
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- Andrew

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-22-2015
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.