The prolific writer James Baldwin is an essential voice in African American literature in the Civil Rights era and in the narrative of Black struggle. His 1957 popular masterpiece, Sonny’s Blues is a short story which begins with the unnamed narrator coming to understand that his estranged younger brother, who has had a history of delinquent and addictive behavior, will be going back to prison. Sonny is a musician, possessing great talent and an all around passive demeanor. The narrator turned out much differently than his troubled brother, as he is a high school math teacher with a stable family life. Once Sonny is finally released, he comes to live with the narrator and his family in their childhood neighborhood of Harlem, causing a strained situation. Tension leads to an inevitable argument between the two where Sonny reveals the motives for his drug use. The story explores such themes as addiction, incarceration, music, and family in the Black community. Although not overtly about racial tension, this piece of Civil Rights era African American literature tells a poignant tale surrounding themes that runs deeply and adversely in the everyday lives of many Black Americans. —Olympia Scott, AALBC
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