The English Department’s Dr. Christopher Z. Hobson recently had a letter to the New York Times editor published. The letter is about teaching James Baldwin and quotes one of our English majors! The letter reads:
It’s welcome that James Baldwin’s reputation is rising again. But in focusing on early masterworks like “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and “Sonny’s Blues,” we risk neglecting Baldwin’s rich, deeply felt later novels, particularly “If Beale Street Could Talk” (1974) and “Just Above My Head” (1979). I teach these regularly.
College readers respond to Baldwin’s vivid language — colloquial as well as literary; to the wisdom and sorrow of “Just Above My Head”; and to Baldwin’s prophetic anticipation of today’s partial acceptance of homosexuality and America’s stalled racial reformation.
One of my seniors wrote that Baldwin “hurt me in such a beautiful way that I could not be angry with him,” and that is one mark of a great writer.
CHRISTOPHER Z. HOBSON
Old Westbury, N.Y., April 27, 2014