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James Baldwin

James Baldwin

Living in Fire

by Bill V. Mullen

Series: Revolutionary Lives

The biography of one of the world's most influential African-American writers

'A scrupulous biography' Publishers Weekly

'Fresh, incisive, and uplifting' Kirkus

'If you want to know the real Baldwin, this is the book to read' Robin D.G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk

James Baldwin is an icon of liberation who created some of the most important literary works of his time, including the novels Go Tell It on the Mountain and If Beale Street Could Talk. Here, Bill V. Mullen celebrates the life of the great African-American writer and activist.

As a lifelong anti-imperialist, black queer advocate, and feminist, James Baldwin was a passionate chronicler of the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, the US war against Vietnam, the Palestinian liberation struggle, and the rise of LGBTQ+ rights.

Mullen pays homage to Baldwin's truly radical approach to his life, writing and activism. Constantly in struggle for an anti-racist, emancipated world, Baldwin's philosophy and politics were ahead of their time, predicting many of today's movements such as Black Lives Matter.


Bill V. Mullen is Professor of American Studies at Purdue University. He is the author of James Baldwin: Living in Fire and UnAmerican: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Century of World Revolution, amongst other books.

'A scrupulous biography'

- Publishers Weekly

'A fresh, incisive, and uplifting biography'

- Kirkus

'Finally, the James Baldwin we've been waiting for: the revolutionary, fierce internationalist, queer theorist, anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist, and perhaps the most dangerous thinker of the 20th century. If you want to know the real Baldwin, this is the book to read'

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

'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 smart, concise introduction, well worth a read'

- Guardian

'A remarkable biography'

- Le Monde Diplomatique

'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, drawing out his 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 and author of 'The Deliverance of Others'

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

- Jacobin

'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 at Stanford University and editor of 'The Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin'

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

- Pop Matters

'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 and author of 'The Black Arts Movement'

'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'

'A truly internationalist and radical reading of an author whose work is only today being fully appreciated. It takes a radical sensibility like Bill Mullen's to draw out the revolutionary potential of the love promised by Baldwin [...] this biography is a step on that road to radical love as a way of life'

- Stefano Harney, co-author of 'The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study'

'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'


- Counterfire

Preface to the Paperback Edition
Introduction: 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
Paperback ISBN: 9780745338538
Hardcover ISBN: 9780745338545
eBook ISBN: 9781786804976

150mm x 230mm

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