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5/26/14

Rachel's Random Recommendation #34: Native Son by Richard Wright

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-9kSKG-1bi-c/TsvbDbK_A_I/AAAAAAAABqY/jsMn0AOT9gA/s1600/native.jpgNative Son (1940) by Richard Wright

I've read this book twice and taught it once, but I believe that I could re-read it once a year and still find something new in it because it's that fantastic.

I first came to Richard Wright through Black Boy (1945), and I was hooked. Wright just knows how to draw you in, no matter what he's writing about. His description, for instance, of how he found his way to books while a young boy and read as many as he could made me think about how much of him I saw in myself, despite our different time-periods, religions, geographies, and ethnicities. I felt like Wright was a friend, taking me through his life step-by-step and describing the hardships he endured, as if he had known me for years.

 So I wasn't expecting what I found in Native Son. Actually, I didn't even know what it was about when I picked it up- I just saw "Richard Wright" on the cover and grabbed it.

And when I started reading about Bigger Thomas, his family, his job, and the tragedy that followed, I absolutely COULDN'T. PUT. IT. DOWN. I remember the first time I read the book (as a high schooler)- I was at the kitchen table while my mom was making dinner, and even when dinner was on the table, I kept reading. My heart was racing and I was wondering "will someone find out what Bigger did?! Will he get away?! Ahhhhhhh I want to know!!!!" That, my friends, is how genius Wright was.

When I taught Native Son, I told my class that we could easily spend an entire semester on it, and the two weeks we were given wouldn't let us even scratch the surface. The rat scene in the beginning, the movie theater scene, the pool-house scene, Mary Dalton's death, Bigger's efforts to escape arrest: these were all rich in imagery and loaded with philosophical and ethical questions.

So go read Native Son, and if you already have, go read it again.

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