Thursday, July 19, 2007

White Girl Reads Black Boy

Dear Richard Wright,

Well for some time I have been reading Black Boy. I started with an abridged version, then fascinated went to the whole of what I have discovered is a two part piece that was published separately, as Black Boy and American Hunger.

You are not very soft and fuzzy. I knew that, for I have read Native Son. But you are revealing and as you were forceful in pointing out, you live in the world of emotions and you reveal emotions. They are not warm and fuzzy emotions, but they are emotions. Black Boy was particularly moving to me as an offering of the psychological makeup of an afro-american male growing up in the deep south of the early part of the 20th century.

I was interested in the two concepts that you play with throughout the two books.

1. Fear
2. Hunger

Are those the drivers of the life of the intellectual? Does fear drive us (us?) in and does hunger make us come out? Is it fear that makes us stand, shaking and then psychologically crawl to the underbrush of our personalities, spooking around for shelter. I use that phrase "spooking" because my father used to use it. He would come to our home for a visit. Then he would get bored and curious and say, "I'm going to go out and spook around." I wonder where he got that? What would you say, Richard? That word has a nasty underbelly, doesn't it? His surface meaning was that he wanted to float about and find the local haunts. In this case I think he meant nothing else.

But we float about inside ourselves looking for a steady base that can be counted on, from which we can begin to build an intellectual framework. Is it possible to retreat and find that place inside ourselves without the fear? White girl here did not grow up in fear. My fears have come late and with age and the various kickings around of life. My fears have come with rejections and incompletions and incapabilities. And hunger? I have not known physical hunger at all. Yet I cannot be satiated, now. I hunger for ideas and paths of thinking, and I hunger for relationships that feed. (You longingly mentioned a lack of friendship in your book. Did you ever find that? I hope so.)

Oh, how I wish I had enough to fill the empty belly of my brain.

I'm glad that, as hard as some of your information is to digest, you are clear that you are dealing in the realm of emotion. I think that moderns, though very emotionally driven, are slow to use the term. I, too, live in that realm and work from that gut place. But productivity isn't driven by emotion or the intersection of fear and the internal man or woman, do you think? It demands a return to the world of the other and the work of scavenging for sustenance. And it demands a common cupboard of some kind. Your work displays a very particular cupboard that has been helpful for me to see.

Well, let me go eat breakfast.


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