Black Boy is the first book on the syllabus (I love that word, “syllabus”, it’s so silly for a serious, college word, but I digress). I burned through Richard Wright’s much fictionalized autobiography in four days. I didn’t want to put it down until the final 60-or-so odd pages. Up until those last 60 pages, the novel was beautifully written. The prose was in perfect harmony with the subject matter. And then, in those last 60, the text became dry and political. I didn’t expect the shift and was thus jarred out of the story.
Interestingly enough, back in June of 1944, the Book of the Month Club seems to have thought the same thing. They wrote Wright and asked him to cleave off the second half, “The Horror and the Glory”, and rewrite the ending of the first part, Southern Night, before they would select it as one of their club picks. I gotta say, other than some great paragraphs on the state of America at the time, I could’ve easily skipped Part Two. Nothing wrong with what’s there. It just bored this reader to the point I wanted to put it down.
Slightly off topic: I highly suggest you follow the link above to the Yale Course and check it out, as well as their other free YouTube courses. There are dozens of them. For free. Did I mention they were free courses?
In summation: Highly recommended first half, but the second part can easily be skipped without losing much. Unless you like reading about communism, then by all means, dive right in. The topic simply does not interest me whatsoever and Wright goes on and on and on about it.
Final Judgment: Race relations and communism in equal parts.