Moving on to Richard Wright’s ‘Native Son’: Brief biographical information

Native Son by Richard Wright

Native Son by Richard Wright

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Quite the change in mood and style from Rose Macaulay to Richard Wright. I’m not sure I could have chosen a wider contrast if I’d intentionally tried, which I didn’t. I just pulled the book off my shelf (one of my many, I should say) because it was the first I saw that I knew was also on THE LIST. And I have read it previously but so long ago I’ve forgotten much of it.

Once more through the park! And don’t spare the horses.

One rule for this endeavor is I won’t choose more than one book from the same category (Comedy, Science Fiction, etc.) in a row. Another, that having previously read a book may excuse it from a potential re-read, but that rule isn’t hard and fast. I am, after all, the captain of this ship.

I think my hunt and grab method of choosing books will serve me a long time, considering the size of my collection and the length of the list. I’ll probably die before I’m faced with actually having to buy a book, at the rate I’m going. Maybe I’ll will this blog to someone to take over for me once I’ve crossed to the other side of the reading fence, because I sure ain’t gonna finish. Especially not with my propensity for meandering off-course.

FYI: This would be a good time to cozy up to me, if you’re hankering to be that fortunate soul who takes the reins from my hands.

(Cash and chocolate accepted.)

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richardwrightRichard Wright  (1908-1960)

A brief bio from Southern Literary Trail:

Richard Wright was born on Rucker Plantation, just a few miles from Natchez, [Mississippi] on September 4, 1908. He was the grandson of a slave and became a celebrated son of Natchez. The house where Wright lived, early in his childhood, bears a historical marker. The highway that leads into town, an origination point for the Natchez Trace parkway, is named in Wright’s honor. Wright’s father Nathaniel, a sharecropper, abandoned the family after moving them to Memphis, and his mother Ella Wright, a schoolteacher, was left to support herself and her children.

ellawrightElla Wright

Ella suffered a stroke in 1919, and she was forced to seek housing for her family with relatives back in Mississippi. Still in the middle of a turbulent young life, Richard Wright wrote his first story, The Voodoo of Hell’s Half-Acre, when he was only fifteen. It was published by The Southern Register, a Mississippi newspaper for African-Americans. The emerging novelist was living with a strict grandmother in Jackson, who did not approve of his writing, but disapproval by family only intensified Wright’s desire to write more.

Wright authored Uncle Tom’s Children in 1938 and Native Son in 1940. He lived in Chicago and New York where he began an important friendship with Ralph Ellison. Son was the first book by an African-American writer chosen as a selection by the Book of the Month Club. The book was turned into a Broadway play directed by Orson Welles in 1941. Wright moved to Paris in 1946 and died there in 1960 within the month following his speech entitled The Position of the Negro Artist and Intellectual in American Society at the American Church in Paris. Wright’s crematory urn also contained the ashes of a copy of Black Boy, the 1945 book that expressed his “vague sense of the infinite” stirred on the river bluffs of Natchez.

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Black Boy is Wright’s autobiography. A more comprehensive bio of his life can be found here, at the SparkNotes site for Black Boy.

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wrighthouse

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richardwrightgraveRichard Wright’s tomb, Paris

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This will serve as introductory info on Wright  – about whom I’m especially interested, as he was a fellow Mississippian. His story is so rich, I don’t feel I can do much justice to him in one short post.

In order to really understand him it would be beneficial to read Black Boy. How much time would I like to invest, that’s my question. Don’t know the answer just yet.

Southern literature runs deep within me as it’s a large part of my ancestral culture. May be (much) more on Wright to come.

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