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Publisher's Summary

New York Times best seller

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?

Named One of the Ten Best Books of the Year by Chicago Tribune and One of the Best Books of the Year by the Washington Post and Time

Shortlisted for the Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice

"A powerful study of how to bear witness in a moment when America is being called to do the same." (Time)

We live, according to Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., in a moment when the struggles of Black Lives Matter and the attempt to achieve a new America have been challenged by the election of Donald Trump, a president whose victory represents yet another failure of America to face the lies it tells itself about race. From Charlottesville to the policies of child separation at the border, his administration turned its back on the promise of Obama’s presidency and refused to embrace a vision of the country shorn of the insidious belief that white people matter more than others.

We have been here before: For James Baldwin, these after times came in the wake of the civil rights movement, when a similar attempt to compel a national confrontation with the truth was answered with the murders of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. In these years, spanning from the publication of The Fire Next Time in 1963 to that of No Name in the Street in 1972, Baldwin transformed into a more overtly political writer, a change that came at great professional and personal cost. But from that journey, Baldwin emerged with a sense of renewed purpose about the necessity of pushing forward in the face of disillusionment and despair.

In the story of Baldwin’s crucible, Glaude suggests, we can find hope and guidance through our own after times, this Trumpian era of shattered promises and white retrenchment. Mixing biography - drawn partially from newly uncovered interviews - with history, memoir, and trenchant analysis of our current moment, Begin Again is Glaude’s endeavor, following Baldwin, to bear witness to the difficult truth of race in America today. It is at once a searing exploration that lays bare the tangled web of race, trauma, and memory, and a powerful interrogation of what we all must ask of ourselves in order to call forth a new America.

©2020 Eddie S. Glaude (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"In this powerful and elegant book on James Baldwin, Eddie Glaude weaves together a biography, a meditation, a literary analysis, and a moral essay on America. Like Baldwin’s own essays and books, it is at times both loving and angry, challenging and uplifting, and always beautiful. Both Baldwin and this book speak directly to today." (Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci)

 

"Begin Again is an unparalleled masterpiece of social criticism. Glaude thinks alongside America’s finest essayist, matching the master’s firepower, brilliance, courage, and sensitivity at every turn. He pushes, prods and disrobes history, forcing us to face uncomfortable truths and insisting upon our better inheritances. Glaude’s stunningly crafted prose - incisive, vulnerable, and beautiful - is as breathtaking as his brilliance. This book is precisely the witness we need for our treacherous times." (Imani Perry, author of Breathe and Looking for Lorraine)

"In this searing, provocative, and ultimately hopeful book, Eddie Glaude, Jr., takes us on a fascinating journey through the mind and heart of James Baldwin. But a parallel odyssey through Glaude’s own formidable mind and generous heart unfolds as well - an odyssey that tells us much about the way we live now and how we might come to live if we could, to borrow a phrase of Lincoln’s, think anew and act anew. One need not agree with everything in these pages to learn much from them, and for Americans seeking to understand our past, our present, and the possible futures before us, Begin Again challenges, illuminates, and points us toward, if not a more perfect union, at least a more just one." (Jon Meacham, author of The Soul of America and Destiny and Power)

Featured Article: Outstanding Black Authors Across Various Genres and Styles


Stories have the power not only to transport us, but to allow us to connect, understand, and feel represented. The work of phenomenal Black authors—like those featured in this list—has expanded the ambition, scope, and perspective of storytelling. These must-hear titles from some of the best Black authors of all time are also indisputably some of the most remarkable works of literature in both the contemporary and historical canon.

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I Understand.

From chapter 7 “Even so, we, black and white (Baldwin believed) remain inextricably linked, bound together forever with love. And together, we would bring forth the new majority.”

These words hit me like a lighting rod. At the depths of my soul, I know and fully understand what is meant by “bound together forever with love”.

Eddie Glaude beautifully and eloquently has made the case for white Americans to open their eyes and see. See the rampant racism in this country. We need to stop looking away and he calls for us to finally, after 400 years and two previous blown opportunities, to once and for all choose racial equality.

I met my husband 30 years ago. I was 20 and was meeting him for a job interview. At the time, he was the fitness director at Golds Gym Princeton and I was auditioning for a spot as an instructor. When I got home from the interview my mom asked how the interview went, I responded, Went well, I met the person I am going to spend the rest of my life with... he’s Black.”

My dad, born in 1946, grew up in Queens (you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking of Trump who also was born in 1946 and grew up in Queens) was the poor version of Trump. While they may not have hung out in the same circles, I can assure you that they peddled in the same vile and toxic brand of racism going around Queens at the time. The first years of my life were filled with the same filth that comes out of the White House. My dad spent almost everyday of my childhood acting as the victim and blamed everyone else for the chip on his shoulder. With the exception of the Irish (my mom is Irish) it was full on fair game to insult and say awful things about everyone for anything and everything. My siblings and I were little racists in training, destined to carry the GenX version forward; until the day I opened my eyes a little bit wider. I think I was around 10 years old when I caught a glimpse of just how hurtful his comments could be as he insulted my best friend whose family is Italian. He made some stupid comment about Italian cooking (for the 19th time). It was then in 1980 where my journey to start to question how we were treating others began. Clearly not rocket science but for a teenager, it dawned on me that my dad felt so bad about himself - he used hate, bigotry and racism to try to make himself feel better. Its not a path to happiness.

White people of America. Please read/listen to this book. And then please watch the documentary about James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro. It is time to unpack the great American lie and time to face the truth. Open your eyes to the truth. Listen to the truth. Understand the truth. Do your part.

This month, I will celebrate my 50th bday. I was born on the first anniversary of the moon landing. I grew up thinking America could do great things. We have the opportunity right now to choose who we will be. I chose love. You can too.

101 people found this helpful

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Thank you

Thank you, Eddie, for helping me understand. I am trying. Sometimes it feels like that's all we can do.

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  • 07-02-20

Who Could Make James Baldwin Tedious?

I'm an avid consumer or Audible titles, (so far, 13 months of my life spent listening in fact,) & as such, probably a comparitive conneseur of narration. (I'm disabled & unable to read conventionally.) I was particularly avid to hear this book as is evidenced by my purchase & start of it on the day it was released, because I know how impactful & emergent were the introspections & orations of James Baldwin. So I'm sorry to say that Glaude's reading of his own words serve to diminish them & distance him from his subject. Now having slogged through the performance of 'Begin Again,' to the end, I'm left disappointed by the author's narration & accordingly with his book.

His recording is low in level, anemic in delivery & maudlin in emotion. The anguish & pain, power & the patois of James Baldwin that surely exists in the author's intention, thesis, & I suppose his manuscript; rings hollow when recited with his Princeton aloofness, cable news pundit savoir faire, & most disappointingly, his overwrought whispering for dramatic effect. With each passing chapter, I wondered, what a pedantic, but plain spoken & urbanely captivating Baldwin would think about this somniferous recounting of the potent appeal of his original & authentic zeal. Don't get it twisted, the problem is not in the message, but the messenger. With so many excellent narrators available for hire, why must an author feel the need to do it themselves? Particularly when their own voice & delivery is antithetical to the person's, about whom they are writing & speaking? James Baldwin was at times smoldering, but never was he sleepy.

In his prelude, Glaude emphasizes his personal reluctance to immerse himself in Baldwin, let alone become his quasi-biographer. Methinks he may have better served the memory of Baldwin & the USA, had he simply crafted & shared a James Baldwin reading & viewing list for his audience. If you're interested in James Baldwin, do yourself a favor & use the time you'd spend on 'Begin Again,' to experience Baldwin's own original movies, short stories & interviews again, (or especially for the first time.) Because I fear that this book might actually cause you not to do so. Then, with a new or renewed appreciation for Baldwin in actuality, you may be better able to appreciate this book, or not.

But whatever you do, if you're able, read it conventionally, & don't listen to it, because the ideas that are authentically Baldwin, are to me, lost in this heavily stylized & self-aware narration.

PS If you are the author, please take no offense, I know my review may seem harsh. But my goal, (hopefully like yours,) is only to share James Baldwin, in the hope that doing so will help our country & our citizens to love & serve all.

18 people found this helpful

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Class Action Lawsuit

... I couldn’t help but think about the damage and the theft of the Lie.... our lies in our education robbed us not only of this beautiful soul, Jimmy Baldwin, but our humanity.

Dr. G, as amazing and earnest a critique of our present reality, this treatise was like a reintroduction to Jimmy... a begin againing.

Wonderful beautifully written great read!!!!!!

9 people found this helpful

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AMAZING!

Prof. Glaude eloquently lays out, thru the lens of James Baldwin, the basic idea that if Americans doesnt stop lying to themselves about our inherent goodness, we will never heal and be what we say we are. This book helps black americans exhale in truth.

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Disappointing

Wanted to hear about his analysis of James Baldwin. Instead it is another pro-BLM, anti-Trump book. Very disappointing to reduce Mr Baldwin’s ideas to Trump and Republican bashing. This author let his own personal politics get in the way of what could have been a more scholarly narrative. Mr Baldwin was a very complex man who was not embraced totally by the very black community he chose to write about. He was the black elite liberals who Hinds with their white liberal counterparts. His open homosexuality played a significant role in his rejection by the community. He was a late comer to the Black Power movement, which for blacks in general got them no lasting gains.

Not sure how old this author is but I’m 70 and lived what he’s writing about. Too bad, this could have been a great book.

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Must Read--Beautifully narrated

I simply couldn't put it down! Baldwin couldn't have found a more perfect vehicle. It's like getting a 21st Century read of Baldwin's take on this current climate. I needed this, today! Should be required reading in this 2020 Era. Thank you, Sir -for your voice, your heart and your conviction.

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Enlightening

On point and informative. Enjoyed this very much and I highly recommend this for anyone curious of Baldwin and his brilliance.

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Excellent

I love this audible, excellent. It provides you with more insight into James Baldwin life and legacy. Its binge worthy!

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Brilliantly beautiful.

My initial desire to read the book was my interest in the ideological writings of James Baldwin. Also, I enjoyed your book: Democracy In Black. Dr. Glaude, I appreciated your interpretation of who we are as Black Americans as defined by White people is based on the “Original Lie.” As Black Americans, we cannot excuse White peoples guilt of slavery because of their belief in our inferiority. As Black Americans, we understand that Blacks Lives Matter no matter what beliefs the “Lie” perpetuates. As a result, systemic racism has a devastating effect on what American democracy represents. Dr. Glaude, thank you for your truly insightful view of where we have been and where we must go in order to create a New America. May I be so bold to say, Jimmy would enjoy reading your book.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Stefan
  • 01-14-21

A heartbreaking story, experly told.

Not everything is lost. Responsibility cannot be lost, it can only be abdicated. If one refuses abdication, one begins again. - Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

James Baldwin felt the pain of black Americans, the ebb and flow of white nationalism, and the white/black value gap in it's history.

Heartbreaking & painful to read into the struggles he witnessed & endured.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 07-12-20

Riveting, Poignant, Emotional Call to Action.

Once I started, I could not stop. Listened to the entire performance in one sitting. I sent it to my 78 year old father for his birthday. Will have my 16 year old daughter listen this week.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-04-20

A Life Unexamined Is Wasted

I listen to this biography, history and literary master piece and gained knowledge and understanding. This book bears witness of the time and provide an expose as to why 'Black Life Matters'. Exposing the LIE that is the foundation of RACISM, the inability for the racist to LOVE themselves. Exposing the strength, resilience and commitment to the lived experience of those who paid with their life, the price of defining ourselves and our value and not ascribing to the notion of inferiority projected onto Black Bodies. Thank You

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-25-20

Enlightening insightful brilliant

Amazing insight into James Baldwin's life, Eddie S. Glaude JR eloquently orates this book in such a way it is a pleasure to the ears and I highly recommend you "take a walk with Eddie, through James Baldwin life, as it will be rewarding" as said by David Ignatius on the Morning Joe show in the US.

If you read this review Eddie, can your next book be on John Lewis, as the world needs to hear his message also.