A Portable James Baldwin


I came to her place to take a picture of Baldwin’s typewriter. This is what I told her. But I think I also came because I wanted to see someone who is his flesh and blood. I wanted to see that he was really theirs, their Uncle Jimmy. Because if he was theirs, the logic followed, then he was also ours.

In her expansive, searching essay for Buzzfeed Books, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah recounts traveling to James Baldwin’s France estate to explore her connection to this larger-than-life literary figure. Surrounded by Baldwin’s family, his writing, and his pink teacups, she experiences the joyous blurring of boundaries between his personal life and his work; his particular life story and the life stories of other black men trying to thrive; his intellectual descendants and his blood kin; and even the boundary that separates a single body from the rest of the world.

Theodora Messalas is a New York-based writer and editor who could easily be talked into going to grad school. More from this author →