“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.“ – James Baldwin. Illustrated with three early portraits of the writer by gay novelist and photographer, Carl Van Vechten (June 17, 1880 - December 21, 1964.)
You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.
“True rebels, after all, are as rare as true lovers, and in both cases, to mistake a fever for passion can destroy one's life.”
"To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the making of bread."
"When one begins to live by habit and by quotation, one has begun to stop living."
“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.”
"The world is before you, and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in."
“To accept one’s past – one’s history – is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought.”
“For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn't any other tale to tell, it's the only light we've got in all this darkness.”
“Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.”
“You have to go the way your blood beats. If you don't live the only life you have, you won't live some other life, you won't live any life at all.”
"Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced."
"Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have."
“All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.”
When James Baldwin said “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me the most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” And when Alan Bennett said “The best moments in reading are when you come across something- a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things- that you’d thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”
“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” - James Baldwin
“The world’s definitions are one thing and the life one actually lives is quite another. One cannot allow oneself, nor one’s family, friends, or lovers – to say nothing of one’s children – to live according to the world’s definitions: one must find a way, perpetually, to be stronger and better than that.”