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Defector Reads A Book

Defector Reads A Book Returns With ‘The Fire Next Time’

A photographer of author James Baldwin smoking a cigarette.
Getty Images

After a winter spent getting destroyed by and then recovering from Moby-Dick, Defector Reads A Book is back. This month's selection was made by Kelsey, though as the new season of Normal Gossip drops tomorrow (subscribe wherever you get your podcasts! [No, not there]), I am the one bringing you this announcement. We are going to spend some time with James Baldwin this spring, settling in with his two-essay collection, The Fire Next Time.

The two essays, "My Dungeon Shook" and "Down At The Cross," were published in the Progressive and the New Yorker in 1962. The first, in the form of a letter from Baldwin to his teenage nephew offering advice on how to navigate American life as a black man, is a forebearer of Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between The World And Me. Coates's is framed similarly, 50-odd years later, though the only experience I personally have with either Baldwin's essay or Coates's book is a 2015 Vinson Cunningham story in New York about the differences between the two as writers, thinkers, and men of their times. As Fire is reasonably short, I suspect our discussion will be reasonably intertextual.

And to that end, we will convene here in just under a month, on Wednesday, May 15. See you then!

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