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The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

            James Baldwin's book "The Fire Next Time," was described by the New York Times Book Review as a "sermon, ultimatum, confession, deposition, testament, and chronicle.all presented in searing brilliant prose." It lives up to all of these descriptors and is an engaging contribution that explores racial injustice in Harlem, where Baldwin spent his formative years living amongst the issues brought out in the novel. It details the present state of racial issues in America and also provides a hint into the future that these issues will help form. Written when the Civil Rights movement was in full swing, it is possible to read it as a looking back piece that lets us see how accurate the future Baldwin saw coming turned out to be. Baldwin writes that "One is responsible to life: it is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return" (Baldwin, 106). This quotation can be combined which another that says, "Generations do not cease to be born." Generations are born, and they do not have control over the time and place into which they were born. Baldwin, through the happenstance that governs the eventualities of the universe, was born into an area of racial distinction and discrimination. His message throughout the book is not one of lamenting the injustice of being born into injustice, but the responsibility that those born into such situations must take on. In the first of the two essays in "The Fire Next Time," is an epistle written to his nephew who is 14-years-old. He is writing it on a particularly important day in racial history, the 100th anniversary of the emancipation proclamation in which US President Abraham Lincoln declared that black slaves were now legally free. He makes it clear that such an exploration of race issues is not something Baldwin finds easy to express. He begins by writing; "I have begun this letter five times and torn it up five times" (Baldwin, 17).

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