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Cover image for Early works
Format:
Title:
Early works
ISBN:
9780940450660
Manufacture:
New York, N.Y. : Distributed in the U.S. and Canada by Viking Press.
Publication:
New York, N.Y. : Library of America, [1991]
Physical Description:
936 pages ; 21 cm.
Series title(s):
Number in series:
55.
Contents:
Lawd today! -- Uncle Tom's children -- Native son -- How "Bigger" was born -- Chronology -- Notes on the texts.
Summary:
Contains the complete texts of three works by African-American author Richard Wright: "Native Son," and its companion essay "How 'Bigger' Was Born"; Wright's first novel "Lawd, Today!"; and the story collection "Uncle Tom's Children." Includes a chronology of Wright's life and notes on his writings.
Added Title:
Lawd today.

Uncle Tom's children.

Native son.
Holds:

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Status
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Wright, R.
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813.5 WRIGHT
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On Order

Summary

Summary

Includes Native Son , now an HBO original movie by Rashid Johnson, with a screenplay by Suzan-Lori Parks and starring Ashton Sanders.

Native Son exploded on the American literary scene in 1940. The story of Bigger Thomas, a young black man living in the raw, noisy, crowded slums of Chicago's South Side, captured the hopes and yearnings, the pain and rage of black Americans with an unprecedented intensity and vividness. The text printed in this volume restores the changes and cuts--including the replacement of an entire scene--that Wright was forced to make by book club editors who feared offending their readers. The unexpurgated version of Wright's electrifying novel shows his determination to write honestly about his controversial protagonist. As he wrote in the essay "How 'Bigger' Was Born," which accompanies the novel: "I became convinced that if I did not write Bigger as I saw and felt him, I'd be acting out of fear."

This volume also contains Wright's first novel, Lawd Today! , published posthumously in 1963, and his collection of stories, Uncle Tom's Children , which appeared in 1938. Lawd Today! interweaves news bulletins, songs, exuberant wordplay, and scenes of confrontation and celebration into a kaleidoscopic chronicle of the events of one day--February 12--in the life of a black Chicago postal worker. The text for this edition reinstates Wright's stylistic experiments, and the novel emerges as a far livelier work of the imagination.

Uncle Tom's Children first brought Wright to national attention when it received the Story Prize for the best work submitted to the Federal Writers' Project. The characters in these tales struggle to survive the cruelty of racism in the South, as Wright asks "what quality of will must a Negro possess to live and die with dignity in a country that denied his humanity." All five stories Wright included in the 1940 second edition are published in this volume, along with his sardonic autobiographical essay "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow."

Richard Wright was "forged in injustice as a sword is forged," wrote Ernest Hemingway. With passionate honesty and courage, he confronted the terrible effects of prejudice and intolerance and created works that explore the deepest conflicts of the human heart.

This Library of America edition presents for the first time Wright's works in the form in which he intended them to be read. The authoritative new texts, based on Wright's original typescripts and proofs, reveal the full range and power of his achievement as an experimental stylist and as a fiery prophet of the tragic consequences of racism in American society. The volume includes notes on significant changes in Wright's text and a detailed chronology of his life.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation's literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America's best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.


Author Notes

Richard Wright was generally thought of as one of the most gifted contemporary African American writers until the rise of James Baldwin. "With Wright, the pain of being a Negro is basically economic---its sight is mainly in the pocket. With Baldwin, the pain suffuses the whole man. . . . If Baldwin's sights are higher than Wright's, it is in part because Wright helped to raise them" (Time). Wright was born on a plantation near Natchez, Mississippi, the son of a sharecropper. At the age of 15, he started to work in Memphis, then in Chicago, then "bummed all over the country," supporting himself by various odd jobs. His early writing was in the smaller magazines---first poetry, then prose. He won Story Story's $500 prize---for the best story written by a worker on the Writer's Project---with "Uncle Tom's Children" in 1938, his first important publication. He wrote Native Son (1940) in eight months, and it made his reputation. Based in part on the actual case of a young black murderer of a white woman, it was one of the first of the African American protest novels, violent and shocking in its scenes of cruelty, hunger, rape, murder, flight, and prison.

Black Boy (1945) is the simple, vivid, and poignant story of Wright's early years in the South. It appeared at the beginning of a new postwar awareness of the evils of racial prejudice and did much to call attention to the plight of the African American. The Outsider (1953) is a novel based on Wright's own experience as a member of the Communist party, an affiliation he terminated in 1944. He remained politically inactive thereafter and from 1946 until his death made his principal residence in Paris. His nonfiction writings on problems of his race include Black Power: A Record of Reactions in a Land of Pathos (1954), about a visit to the Gold Coast, White Man, Listen (1957), and Twelve Million Black Voices: A Folk History of the Negro in the United States.

(Bowker Author Biography) Richard Wright was born on a plantation near Natchez, Mississippi. His father left the family when Wright was only five years old, and he was raised first by his mother and then by a series of relatives. What little schooling he had ended with his graduation from ninth grade in Memphis, Tennessee. At age 15, he started to work in Memphis, and later worked in Chicago before traveling across the country supporting himself with odd jobs.

When Wright finally returned to Chicago, he got a job with the federal Writer's Project, a government-supported arts program. He was quite successful, winning a $500 prize from a magazine for the best fiction written by a participant in that program. In Chicago, he was also introduced to leftist politics and became a member of the Communist Party. In 1937, Wright left Chicago for New York, where he became Harlem editor for the Communist national newspaper, The Daily Worker, and where he met future novelist, Ralph Ellison.

Wright became a celebrated author with the publication of Native Son (1940), a novel he wrote in only eight months. Based on the actual case of a young black murderer of a white woman, it was one of the first of the modern black protest novels, violent and shocking in its sense of cruelty, hunger, rape, murder, flight, and prison. This novel brought Wright both fame and financial security. He followed it with his autobiography, Black Boy (1945), which was also successful. In 1942, Wright and his wife broke with the Communist Party, and in 1947, they moved to France, where Wright lived the rest of his life. His novel The Outsider (1953) is based on his experiences as a member of the Communist Party.

Wright is regarded as a major modern American writer, one of the first black writers to reach a large white audience, and thereby raise the level of national awareness of the continuing problem of racism in America. In many respects Wright paved the way for all black writers who followed him.

(Bowker Author Biography)