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Publisher's Summary

At once a powerful evocation of his early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice to both the individual and the body politic, James Baldwin galvanized the nation in the early days of the civil-rights movement with this eloquent manifesto. The Fire Next Time stands as one of the essential works of our literature.
©1962 James Baldwin (P)2008 BBC Audiobooks America

Critic Reviews

"Searing...brilliant...masterful." ( The New York Times)
"One of the few genuinely indispensable American writers." ( Saturday Review
"Anguished...stabbing...a final plea and warning...to end the racial nightmare." ( Newsweek)

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What listeners say about The Fire Next Time

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  • Overall
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Sad and moving and powerful and beautiful

If we -- an now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others-- do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world. If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophesy, re-created from the Bible in a song by a slave, is upon us:

"God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
No more water, the fire next time!"

- James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

I just couldn't watch the second GOP debates tonight. I knew I couldn't face the Donald and his band of equally exquisite misfits. I'm not exactly in love with the Democrats either, but the GOP clown car is just too long, too tiring, too damn depressing. So I turned my TV off, tuned out, and read me some James Baldwin.

You could say Ta-Nehisi Coates brought me here (after reading Between the World and Me). Or perhaps, it has been these last couple years of official violence directed at the poor and the black in many of our biggest cities (St Louis, Baltimore, Las Angeles, New York). Or perhaps, I could also say that Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain also brought me here. Perhaps, it was reading the Old Testament with my own teenage children that pushed me in this direction. Or perhaps, even the promise of the New Testament. Maybe, it was my despair over the way that 14-year-old Muslim boy was treated with his homemade clock. I needed tonight a poetic healing and a spiritual justice. An Old Testament warning with a New Testament salve and a black rhythm. I needed James Baldwin's force, his poetry, his humanist hope, his infinitely quotable words. God, his prose is poetic. I literally ran out of post-it notes as I read this 106 page thesis, laid at the feet of his namesake nephew.

God this book was beginning to end sad and moving and powerful and beautiful; and so now writing this and glancing at the highlights (lowlights) of the GOP debates, I can securely say, I made the right damn choice tonight.

82 people found this helpful

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Brilliant and Sadly Relevant

This collections of essays on race is almost breathtaking in its brilliance. Every paragraph contains an insight or truth that is shines a harsh light on the realities of American history and culture. The fact that almost all of it is as relevant today as when this was originally published almost fifty years ago is depressing, but speaks to Baldwin's genius.

Jesse L. Martin reads in a clear, effective voice that communicates Baldwin's passion by letting the words speak for themselves. I would say it is perfect.

Now I have to get the book itself so I can start underlining and memorizing. It really is that good.

79 people found this helpful

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  • JW
  • 02-25-10

Still as bold as ever

Written almost 50 years ago during the Civil Rights era, these two works (a letter and an essay) give the 21st Century listener a solid no-holds barred picture of a black man's life as lived in apartheid America.

At the very least, Baldwin's writing must be commended for its bold directness, its brutal honesty, its elegant articulation and its timely significance. This was worth listening to and I enjoyed Jesse Martin's persuasive narration.

A solid listening treat for Baldwin lovers.

71 people found this helpful

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Baldwin is a literary genius

I first read the paperback version of The Fire Next Time when I was fifteen, in High school, and completely clueless about the world outside of my High school woes. I am now thirty-eight, and I read or listen to this book two to three times per year. I find new meaning to his words and insights each time I listen to it. In 2015, Baldwins' words are still relevant.

36 people found this helpful

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Powerful

Really interesting look into a great civil rights era mind and into a painful time (though many themes are still relevant today). Beautifully written and the performance is equally so.

34 people found this helpful

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My Brother Man

James Baldwin gives us a sense of racial injustice and a manner in which to consider its hurts. What was said then for the Civil Rights movement in 1963; seems to be appropriate today for the Black Lives Matter Movement. Have we really learned?

The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin, is narrated by Jesse L. Martin, contains two essays: "My Dungeon Shook — Letter to my Nephew on the One-Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation," and "Down At The Cross — Letter from a Region of My Mind." The first essay is written in the form of a letter to Baldwin's 14-year-old nephew and discusses the significant role of race in American history. The second essay deals with the relations between race and religion, focusing on Baldwin's experiences with the Christian church as a youth, and his later encounters with Islam. There is no advocacy for, or against religion, but he certainly does not leave you with the belief that either religion is the answer he seeks. These letters are a penetrating attempt to bring you the essence of the agony of growing up black in a racial society where your race is considered less human than the dominant race.

There is something ‘seemingly’ ephemeral about James Baldwin’s words. They come across the page so softly and easily. Yet, he creates definitive images in one’s mind, that continue returning after the read. So my use of the word ephemeral must be inaccurate because those images stay with the reader and last and last and last as recurring thoughts in your mind. He makes you consider, reconsider, and think about the injustices, not in a rash manner but in a considered manner.

I am not a Black man, and I do not know if James Baldwin puts me close to having a true sense of the pain of being on the wrong end of racial injustice. He does give me a comparative understanding and it makes me hurt for my brother man.


31 people found this helpful

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excellent narration of a long honored book

What made the experience of listening to The Fire Next Time the most enjoyable?

had not read this book since high school. The narration was exceptional.

What did you like best about this story?

everything.

Which character – as performed by Jesse L. Martin – was your favorite?

N/A

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It has been 35 years since high school. Hearing this book again, reminded me that I had made very good choices such as loving myself, my color and always seeing myself as beautiful. Those choices gave me the courage to follow my dreams such as studying oceanography and engineering as well as embracing Islam.

Any additional comments?

"The Fire Next Time", could have been written today, very little has changed politically and economically for most African Americans. The methods of racism has changed to include drug infestation and mass incarceration.

31 people found this helpful

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A Must-Read

Baldwin's writing is stunning, his calling of white America to task razor-like, and his humanity profound. As important as ever to understanding America, if not even more so today than when written, these essays are masterpieces of critical analysis, controlled anger, complex emotional understanding, and compassion. Jesse Martin's narration is excellent.

27 people found this helpful

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A Classic Analysis of Race & American Culture

Where does The Fire Next Time rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This book is in the top 25% of audiobooks I've listened to, partially because race and ethnicity in America is a special interest of mine.

What did you like best about this story?

It's not really a story, more an analysis of American culture and race relations in the 1960s. Baldwin is clever, witty and entertaining even listening to him now, over 40 years later.

Have you listened to any of Jesse L. Martin’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I don't pay much attention to the person reading. I focus more on the text itself, but I thought this was a good reading.

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

It's interesting that a lot of the problems that faced black Americans in the 1960s still face black America today. There has been a lot of progress, but race is still a significant cultural force in America today.

18 people found this helpful

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Wow, just wow!

This was my first exposure to Baldwin and he in this feels like a basis of Truth and right that needs to be built upon. Like you've just been equipped with tools for life but because experiences and perspectives always differ, I shall add to this my uniqueness. Thank you sir.

14 people found this helpful