From our friend Marella Consolini:
I recently read an interview with James Baldwin in a 1984 Paris Review. To me, fascinating under any circumstance, but of course thought of you because of his mention of a deep and personal leap. Details:
Was there an instant you knew you were going to write, to be a writer rather than anything else?
BALDWIN: Yes. The death of my father. Until my father died I thought I could do something else. I had wanted to be a musician, thought of being a painter, thought of being an actor. This was all before I was nineteen. Given the conditions in this country to be a black writer was impossible. When I was young, people thought you were not so much wicked as sick, they gave up on you. My father didn’t think it was possible—he thought I’d get killed, get murdered. He said I was contesting the white man’s definitions, which was quite right. But I had also learned from my father what he thought of the white man’s definitions. He was a pious, very religious and in some ways a very beautiful man, and in some ways a terrible man. He died when his last child was born and I realized I had to make a jump—a leap. I’d been a preacher for three years, from age fourteen to seventeen. Those were three years which probably turned me to writing.
What was the impetus for YOUR greatest leaps? What are you contemplating NOW?
“James Baldwin , Harlem, New York, 1945” with thanks to the Avedon Foundation