Monday, September 30, 2013

One of the Best Autobiographies I've Ever Read

"And I knew more than she thought I knew about the meaning of religion, the hunger of the human heart for that which is not and can never be, the thirst of the human spirit to conquer and transcend the implacable limitations of human life." -Richard Wright, Black Boy

I recently read Black Boy, the autobiography of Richard Wright, the African American author probably most famous for Native Son. Which is another one I recently read, but Black Boy is in my opinion the better of the two.

It was first published in 1945, and is divided into two parts: the first part being the lengthier of the two, weighing in at over 250 pages, describes his experience of growing up poor and black in the deep south during the early 1900s. The second part, covers the early part of his adulthood, his twenties and early thirties, after having moved to Chicago and joined the Communist Party, where he played a very active role in that.

It's actually probably the best autobiography I ever read thus far, reads just like a novel, and would have given it five stars, if not for the fact that the second part was not nearly as good. I didn't at all like the parts about his involvement with the Communist Party, and not only was that not interesting at all, it was actually a major turn-off. So I gave it 4 out of 5, for that reason only, but the first part I would definitely give 5 stars.

I only wrote down this one paragraph, quoted above, down in my notebook while reading it, shared here just to give you a sample of the writing, and I could have saved a lot more, but I was finding that I would have ended up copying half the book, because it was all so good. It is probably one of the best books I've read in a long time. I think I liked it even better than The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which is also one of my favorites. And will definitely add it to my "will-read-again" shelf.

What do I like about this book so much?

I'm not black. I'm not male. I'm not a Southerner. I didn't grow up in a religious household. I never experienced the extreme poverty and malnutrition and racism and hardship growing up that he did. And yet, while I did consider it to be extremely informative and interesting for its historical value and insight into the race relations of the deep south, at a time where racial discrimination and oppression were both socially accepted and endorsed, but probably the main reason why I loved this book so much, is that I felt as if I could relate to him.

Not the racism. Not the feelings of inferiority and oppression and injustice, but the feeling of being an outsider, not because of my physical appearance or who my parents are or where I was born, but because of the way I think.

I don't know if it's characteristic of people with either INTJ or INFJ personality type, as I am, to feel as if in many ways I have been living a double life. That there is a public persona that is kind of shallow, that plays the game because you have to, but without really being interested in it or caring much about it, ya know going through the motions, doing whatcha gotta do to survive, but underneath the facade there is a much deeper and more genuine and passionate self that is rarely ever shared with anyone else because there are very few people that think the way that I do and that I feel that I can really relate to and would really understand.

And I also related a lot to his autodidactic habits, finding refuge in books, and ideas, and being dedicated to the pursuit of personal excellence and truth.

Well anyway, if you haven't read Black Boy yet, I would definitely encourage you to. It's a great book, one of the best autobiographies I've ever read.

*This is post 19 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge.