I’d been looking forward to reading this since I (finally) started reading Baldwin last year. When this became available at the library at the start of Black History Month it seemed serendipitous. That, unfortunately, is where the joy and happy coincidences ended. I’ve wanted to read this since I read Between the World and Me a few years ago. The Fire Next Time served as inspiration to Coates, at least in the format of crafting a letter to a child, Baldwin’s nephew and Coates’ son. More specifically, it was the first of two essays contained in the book that inspired Coates, “My Dungeon Shook.” Much like when I read Between the World and Me, I knew that unlike Coates and Baldwin, I am not forced to have these difficult discussions with my children about how the world sees them and it absolutely breaks my heart that nearly 50 years later, nothing of consequence has changed. Coates still had the need to channel Baldwin and fill the void he left because the black experience in America is not markedly different now than it was in 1963.
I feel the same way about Baldwin that I feel about Coates. I dream of being able to write like them. They write in the manner in which I think and I adore them for it. While I listened to this book, I plan to purchase a copy that I can read and re-read and use to take notes. This is a book that demands to be read by everyone and it should be. I would assign it to every school if I could.