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In a year when James Baldwin’s iconic essays hit the bestseller list (again), Princeton professor and TIME contributor Eddie Glaude Jr.’s thoughtful and engaging study of the writer and activist was just what America needed to understand one of its greatest artists. In Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, Glaude traces Baldwin’s complicated journey to understand racism in the U.S. and to wrestle with the hope and despair of the civil rights movement. It is a powerful study of how to bear witness in a moment when America is being called to do the same.

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