Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson


This story is a very emotional recollection of a man who was both black and white.  A fictional account from an autobiographical standpoint of what such a life would look like, James Weldon Johnson takes us on a journey full of sorrow, bad mistakes, a glimpse of happiness, and a life lived around the world.  We see the narrator has he grows, as he discovers his heritage, as he loses himself to his desires, and as he finally realizes the course of his life.


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It was seriously the LAST paragraph that did it for me.  Honestly, I had no idea what I really thought of the book until I read the last paragraph.  It was crazy, going on a journey like this one and getting so acquainted with the characters, and still being unsure of how I felt.  It had amazing writing, great characters, and awesome facts to back up the culture - and still it was missing something.  It was just...empty.  Despite all the facts and character development, despite all the places the narrator went and all the people he met, I felt that he didn't do anything.  He waltzed through life with rich people, as a gambler, as a traveller, always searching for something more, always selfish.  Even when he finally decides to do the right thing, he gets distracted.  I wanted him so badly to do something worthwhile.


Seriously, the LAST paragraph, maybe the last two paragraphs, but really the very last, turned the whole book around and took me by surprise.  And while before I wasn't sure if I would recommend it, now I know that I would recommend it highly.  It frustrated me, it made me feel, and it surprised me.  Great book!


Favorite character: the "girlfriend" or the "widow".  A tie between them.


Favorite aspect:  Everything.  But to name just a bit of it:  foreign language, the way the narrator describes different cities and how the people in them live, the talks about mulatto folk in the South and in the North....  I really could go on! :)


One word to sum up this book:  Surprising.  Really surprising.  Please read this book! :)

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