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The Evidence of Things Not Seen (1986)

por James Baldwin

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244282,832 (4)19
For mature readers, a novel about child murders in Atlanta that explores the racial conflicts that exist in America.
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This means more to me because I miss Atlanta, I love Atlanta, Atlanta is my first wife, Atlanta is where I really made something of myself. I spent all of my twenties in Atlanta, and it may be where I spend the most time living in America, ever.

So to read these pages, where, if for not the Hand of Death, all of these men are still in charge, fills me with shame. Intense shame. Ugly shame. There is no reason for it. They've been there since before I was born, doing nothing for the same ugly parts of town. My friend Dustin published a piece this year about a woman who lives with no running water in Vine City. James Baldwin was in Vine City in 1982, and no one had running water then either. Fuck that. Fuck that fucking shit. The same woman has represented that part of town since before I was born and at this rate -- two DUIs, disappearing money, doing nothing for her district ever --- she'll be there after I die.

This book is an essay, published in parts in Playboy. It is sort of about the Atlanta Child Murders, but it is also about raising black boys, and raising poor black boys, and this weird sort of fucked up attitude that Atlantans have about their town. I'm from Atlanta. I'm not from Georgia. Everyone says that now. Everyone said that then. It bewildered James Baldwin then ("I would never expect anyone to understand me if I said - 'I'm from Harlem. I'm not from New York.'") but I understand it now. Everything is more fractured and ugly, if that is possible. James Baldwin didn't believe it was possible. He recounts a report from forced labor camps somewhere. An event so ugly I don't even want to type it up here because it brings my dinner up. And he says, he just cannot believe that a human would go on such a journey to be so violent, so sinister, so ruthlessly repulsive. I can believe it, now. I've seen it.

Wayne Williams is still in jail for murders he probably didn't commit and Atlanta, as JB so fondly announces, is just like Venice in Death in Venice -- loathe to admit there is a plague in the high season and held in the 'icy Chamber of Commerce.'

Atlanta -- the city too busy to hate or care or give a fuck.

We are disgusting, rueful, fucked up creatures, but at least I didn't suffer the great misfortune of being born White. ( )
1 vote adaorhell | Sep 7, 2018 |
Baldwin's exploration of a deeply faulted criminal trial and the surrounding issues is a scathing and widely-scoped picture, one which examines a very real portion of American history, civil rights, and racism. Baldwin's essay, sometimes sarcastic and at many points infuriated, examines a guilty verdict which is, at best, questionable, and the essential forgetting of more than twenty murders. Examining evidence, action, and report, as well as wider-reaching issues of poverty, psychology, economics, and race relations, Baldwin delivers what amounts to a dissection of supposed justice and legality.

Tightly delivered, there is no way to parcel out pieces of this essay into different sections or expect some version of easy organization to come across. Weaving each issue with the others, and weaving the single story of multiple murders and an ensuing trial in with larger issues of race and psychology, Baldwin's work is nearly overpowering in its intricate (and yet, frightfully straight-forward) delivery of information and analysis.

Very simply, this book should be read by any American who cares where the country has come from or has any interest in civil or human rights, let alone history. The book is frightening and exploratory, but it is also entirely impossible to ignore or forget.

Highly recommended. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Nov 18, 2014 |
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For mature readers, a novel about child murders in Atlanta that explores the racial conflicts that exist in America.

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