49 pages 1 hour read

James Baldwin

Sonny's Blues

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1957

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“Sonny’s Blues”

  • Genre: Fiction; short story
  • Originally Published: 1957
  • Reading Level/Interest: College/adult
  • Structure/Length: Approx. 31 pages; approx. 1 hour, 11 minutes on audio
  • Protagonist and Central Conflict: When an unnamed algebra teacher in the 1950s reads about his brother Sonny’s arrest in the newspaper, he begins to wonder about his brother’s fate and the subsequent fate of the boys he teaches. Later, after the death of his daughter, the narrator reaches out to Sonny, and they bond over Sonny’s musical talent.
  • Potential Sensitivity Issues: Substance use and addiction; racism; death of family members

James Baldwin, Author

  • Bio: August 2, 1924-December 1, 1987; noted Black essayist, novelist, playwright, and poet; writing regularly explores masculinity, sexuality, race, and class that intersect with the civil rights movement and gay liberation movement; never knew his biological father; had a difficult relationship with his stepfather; became a preacher at Fireside Pentecostal Assembly after discovering he was attracted to men; spent years in menial jobs trying to support his family; moved to Paris in 1948 to escape American prejudice against Black people; wrote and published his first novel in Paris; returned to New York in 1957 to participate in the civil rights movement; lived in France for most of his later life; died from stomach cancer in 1987
  • Other Works: Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953); Giovanni’s Room (1956); Another Country (1962); Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone (1968); Just Above My Head (1979)

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