James Baldwin Specialist Eddie Glaude Jr. Announced His Favorite

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Your academic expertise is the intersection of race and religion. Who writes particularly well on this subject today, and what is your favorite book to assign to and discuss with your students at Princeton?

There are some brilliant racial and religious scholars in the country. Many of these are featured in full on Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s PBS special on the Black church. I think of my colleagues Judith Weisenfeld and Wallace Best. Also prominent are Lerone Martin, Josef Sorett, Anthea Butler, William Hart, Mayra Rivera, Monica Coleman and Keri Day. I am really excited that the dissertation of legendary scientist Hortense Spillers will be published by Duke University Press. “The Fabrics of History: Essays on Black Preaching” will have an immediate impact on the field.

Honestly, my favorite book other than “Fire Next Time” is Toni Morrison’s “Dear” novel. I’ve been teaching both books for over 20 years. At some point, everyone should read Baby Suggs’ sermon in the open. And each of my students must grapple with the question Baldwin asked on page 104 of the Vintage edition of “Fire Next Time”: “What’s going to happen to all this beauty?”

Has a book ever brought you closer to or come between you?

Yes! I loved Ralph Ellison. In my first year of graduate school, I wrote every article about him. I wrote a general examination on Ellison’s “The Invisible Man” and the French theorist Michel de Certeau. I still consider “Shadow and Action” and “Going to the Zone” to be outstanding works of American criticism. But after reading Arnold Rampersad’s biography of Ellison, I hated the man. The way he treated his mother, his betrayal of Albert Murray – monstrous.

Another book comes to mind. I read Orhan Pamuk’s “Museum of Innocence” with a friend of mine and we both agreed on how uncomfortable we were with the novel.

Which book would you add to the law and which would you remove?

Given my love of “No Names on the Street”, I would add it to the canon. The book I would remove would probably be “The Ambassadors” by Henry James. I know how important the book is to Baldwin, but James knocks me out every time I open his work. I prefer his brother William. His sentences are dancing. Henry’s, not so much.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned from a book recently?

I should have known that, but I didn’t. In W. Ralph Eubanks’ wonderful book A Place Like Mississippi, he mentions Gilbert Mason, a local doctor in Biloxi who led a series of “wade-ins” on the beaches of Biloxi. On April 24, 1960, “hundreds of peaceful Black protesters were beaten by a mob of whites carrying pool cues, clubs, chains, blackjacks, lead pipes, and baseball bats.”

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