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James Baldwin

James Baldwin

Living in Fire

by Bill V. Mullen

Series: Revolutionary Lives

The first biography of the great American writer in over a decade

In the first major biography of Baldwin in more than a decade, Bill V. Mullen celebrates the personal and political life of the great African-American writer who changed the face of Western politics and culture.

As a lifelong anti-imperialist, black queer advocate, and feminist, Baldwin (1924-1987) was a passionate chronicler of the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, the U.S. war against Vietnam, Palestinian liberation struggle, and the rise of LGBTQ rights.

Mullen explores how Baldwin's life and work channel the long history of African-American freedom struggles, and explains how Baldwin both predicted and has become a symbol of the global Black Lives Matter movement.

Bill V. Mullen is Professor of American Studies at Purdue University. He is co-editor with Ashley Dawson of Against Apartheid: The Case for Boycotting Israeli Universities (Haymarket, 2015). He is the author of W.E.B. Du Bois: Revolutionary Across the Color Line (Pluto Press, 2016).

'A fresh, incisive, and uplifting biography'

- Kirkus

'A remarkable biography'

- Le monde diplomatique

'A clear, incisive writer, Mullen succeeds with providing a fresh perspective on an author he so obviously admires. Recommended for readers seeking a broader understanding of the opinions of one of the great writers of the 20th century'

- Library Journal

'A welcome contribution to a portrait of the radical Baldwin, untamed by liberal platitudes'

- Jacobin

'A scrupulous biography'

- Publishers Weekly

'An important addition to the ongoing assessment and examination of a writer whose legacy remains vital to this day'

- Pop Matters

'A smart, concise introduction'

- The Guardian

'A truly fresh, exciting, comprehensive biography that richly appreciates Baldwin's profound relevance both historically and in this moment'

- Michele Elam, William Robertson Coe Professor, Stanford University, editor of 'The Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin' (Cambridge University Press, 2015); author of 'Race, Work and Desire in American Literature 1860-1930' (Cambridge University Press, 20

'An incisive, timely exposition of Baldwin's political and intellectual evolution. The historically grounded account of Baldwin's critical synthesis of the major strains of black radicalism that we have long needed'

- James Smethurst, Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, author of 'The African American Roots of Modernism: Reconstruction to the Harlem Renaissance' (University of North Carolina Press, 2011); 'The Black Arts Movem

'An admirably tempered appraisal, in clear and sturdy prose, that will vivify for a new generation the strength and moral clarity of Baldwin and his writing'

- Alan Wald, author of 'The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930s to the 1980s' (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1987)

Bill Mullen's biography of James Baldwin offers us a truly internationalist and radical reading of an author whose work is only today being fully appreciated for its ability to place America within its empire, and the black struggle at the fore of a global imperative to remake our societies. We need this urgent biography and we should be grateful Mullen's has delivered it.How politically transformative can love be? James Baldwin loved black people, and he offered this love amid the violence and hate and massive expropriation of black life as a demonstration under duress of what might be possible for all of us. It takes a radical sensibility like Bill Mullen's to draw out for us the revolutionary potential of such a love promised by Baldwin, but held in abeyance until we deserve to feel its wealth. This biography is a step on that road to radical love as a way of life.

- Stefano Harney, author with Fred Moten of 'The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study' (2013, Minor Compositions) and 'All Incomplete' (forthcoming, Minor Compositions).

Finally, Bill V. Mullen presents the James Baldwin we've been waiting for: the revolutionary, fierce internationalist, queer theorist, anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist, incisive dialectician, and perhaps the most dangerous thinker of the 20th century. If you want to know the real Baldwin, the uncompromising critic and visionary realist possessed of Fanonian optimism, Gramscian pessimism, and Lordean love, this is the book to read, the book we desperately need.

- Robin D. G. Kelley, author of 'Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original' (Free Press, 2008)

'James Baldwin: Living in Fire' is one of the most important publishing events of this political age. Lucidly and compellingly written, it updates and recontextualizes our knowledge of the complex, humane brilliance of Baldwin. It draws out Baldwin's importance not only for the ages, but most urgently for our present day. It is a book that angers, moves, and inspires. An indispensable weapon for any activist fighting today's ranging fires.'

- David Palumbo-Liu, Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor and Professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford University; author of 'The Deliverance of Others: Reading Literature in a Global Age' (Duke University Press, 2012)

'Mullen gives us a fresh view of an iconic American literary and revolutionary figure, particularly when it comes to his solidarity with Palestine – a dangerous and unpopular position at the time – which underscores the depth of Baldwin's courage and moral fortitude. This book is an essential contribution to the body of literature examining James Baldwin's extraordinary life'

- Susan Abulhawa, author of 'Mornings in Jenin' (Bloomsbury, 2010), founder of Playgrounds for Palestine


- Counterfire

Preface: James Baldwin—A Revolutionary For Our Time
1. Baptism by Fire: Childhood and Youth, 1924–42
2. Dissidence, Disillusionment, Resistance: 1942–48
3. Political Exile and Survival: 1948–57
4. Paying His Dues: 1957–63
5. Baldwin and Black Power: 1963–68
6. Morbid Symptoms and Optimism of the Will: 1968–79
7. Final Acts
Postscript: Baldwin’s Queer Legacies

Published by Pluto Press in Sep 2019
Hardcover ISBN: 9780745338545
eBook ISBN: 9781786804976

256 pages

150mm x 230mm

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