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The (Future) Vista Cañas Library

Native Son

(1 customer review)

Author: Richard Wright

Length: 504 pages
Type: Fiction, Physical Book
Genre: Classic, Anti-Racist, 1000 Books, Historical, Crime/Thriller, Literary

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“Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright’s powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.”


1 review for Native Son

  1. Janet Dore

    This is not the story of an innocent black man who was wrongly accused. It is the story of Bigger Thomas, an angry and (rightfully) disillusioned 20 year old black man in 1930s Chicago.

    The first lesson I learned reading this book was not to read the lengthy intros inserted into some classic books—they are packed with spoiler alerts! So, before I even read the first line, not only did I know that Bigger Thomas was not going to be a likable character, I knew what was in store for him. I (very much) prefer to find this out on my own, so no more intros for me!

    One of the central messages of this incredibly powerful story was first introduced to me in the movie “The Streets of Compton.” Native Son filled in the gaps so it’s fully solidified now—when powerful humans are disenfranchised, disabled and dehumanized, they will find a way to exercise that power and fight the enemy. No…matter…what…color…their…skin…is. When any form of energy isn’t allowed to be expressed, it simply gets transformed.

    Despite Bigger Thomas being an unlikable character on the surface, I found him extremely sympathetic and relatable. I felt for him, I understood him and I cried for him.

    There was another equally powerful message that really hit home for me. After recently creating an extensive reading list of books on racism on my blog, I got a testy email from a black woman interpreting something I had intentionally left out (for privacy reason) as yet another example of white supremacy. I didn’t get it. Now, I do. Richard Wright does a brilliant job of conveying that the empathy, kindness and efforts of white individuals is simply not enough to fix the centuries-long insidious damage that racism has caused. It will take major systemic changes and a VERY long time before people of color are not suspicious of the actions of every white person, no matter their stance on racism.

    The icing at the end of this cake was a lengthy essay by Richard Wright about how Bigger Thomas was born and the processes he went through in writing it. Says Richard…

    “I had written a book of short stories which was published under the title of Uncle Tom’s Children. When the reviews of that book began to appear, I realized that I made an awfully naïve mistake. I found that I had written a book which even bankers’ daughters could read and weep over and feel good about. I swore to myself that if I ever wrote another book, no one would weep over it; that it would be so hard and deep that they would have to face it without the consolation of tears. It was this that made me get to work in dead earnest.”

    If you’re on a mission to be more educated about the issue of racism, this is a MUST read. Just save the intros for the end!

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