James Arthur Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987) was an American novelist, playwright, essayist, poet, and activist. His essays, as collected in Notes of a Native Son (1955), explore intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, but most notably in mid-20th-century North America. Some of Baldwin's essays are book-length, including The Fire Next Time (1963), No Name in the Street (1972), and The Devil Finds Work (1976). An unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, was expanded and adapted for cinema as the Academy Award–nominated documentary film I Am Not Your Negro.
One of his novels, If Beale Street Could Talk, was adapted into an Academy Award-winning dramatic film in 2018 directed and produced by filmmaker Barry Jenkins. Baldwin's novels, short stories, and plays fictionalize fundamental personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures. Themes of masculinity, sexuality, race, and class intertwine to create complex narratives that ran parallel with some of the major political movements towards social change in mid-twentieth century America, such as the Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Liberation Movement. Baldwin's titular characters are often, but not exclusively, African American. Gay and bisexual men also frequently feature as protagonists in his literature. These characters often face internal and external obstacles in their search for societal and self-acceptance. Such dynamics are prominent in Baldwin's second novel, Giovanni's Room, written in 1956, well before the Gay Liberation Movement.
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