The more closely the author thinks of why he wrote, the more he comes to regard his imagination as a kind of self-generating cement which glued his facts together, and his emotions as a kind of dark and obscure designer of those facts. Reluctantly, he comes to the conclusion that to account for his book is to account for his life.
– Richard Wright
Native Son (1940)
Many writers do feel the urge to write about what they see, what they know, what they’ve experienced, capturing the writer’s zeitgeist. Are you writing about your experience or are you more interested in your imagination’s ability to create new worlds?
Born September 4, 1908 in Roxie, Mississippi, Wright came from a family of sharecroppers in the Jim Crow South. He was the 25th inductee into the Postal Service’s Literary Arts series. Best remembered for his controversial 1940 novel, Native Son, and his 1945 autobiography, Black Boy, Wright drew on a wide range of literary traditions, including protest writing and detective fiction, to craft unflinching portrayals of racism in American society. Wright died in Paris on November 28, 1960.
‘Words Can Be Weapons Against Injustice’
Did you know?
Wright’s Native Son was the first best-selling novel by a Black American writer. It was also the first Book-of-the-Month Club selection by an African-American writer.
Native Son sold 215,000 copies within three weeks of publication. The book made Wright the wealthiest Black writer in America at that time.
For further reading:
Joe Bunting’s Do You Write from Experience or Imagination?