Richard Wright: Early Works
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Native Son exploded on the American literary scene in 1940. The story of Bigger Thomas, a young black man living in the raw, noisy, crowded slums of Chicago’s South Side, captured the hopes and yearnings, the pain and rage of black Americans with an unprecedented intensity and vividness. The text printed in this volume restores the changes and cuts—including the replacement of an entire scene—that Wright was forced to make by book club editors who feared offending their readers. The unexpurgated version of Wright’s electrifying novel shows his determination to write honestly about his controversial protagonist. As he wrote in the essay “How ‘Bigger’ Was Born,” which accompanies the novel: “I became convinced that if I did not write Bigger as I saw and felt him, I’d be acting out of fear.”
This volume also contains Wright’s first novel, Lawd Today!, published posthumously in 1963, and his collection of stories, Uncle Tom’s Children, which appeared in 1938. Lawd Today! interweaves news bulletins, songs, exuberant wordplay, and scenes of confrontation and celebration into a kaleidoscopic chronicle of the events of one day—February 12—in the life of a black Chicago postal worker. The text for this edition reinstates Wright’s stylistic experiments, and the novel emerges as a far livelier work of the imagination.