Are Native Son and Black Boy appropriate for summer reading?


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Richard Wright is considered to be a literary genius- rightfully so.

By: Jada Davis, Senior Art & Music Editor

Any student going into their sophomore year who’s taking English honors is assigned two books for their summer reading project. These two books are Native Son and Black Boy, both written by Richard Wright. Richard Wright is a African American author who often wrote about the discrimination that black people faced.

Native Son

Native Son is a novel written in 1940 by Richard Wright. The story revolves around Bigger Thomas, a young black man who is subjected to racial tension around him. He gets hired by a wealthy white family, named The Daltons. This family consists of a blind mother, a sighted father and a teenage daughter. Thomas immediately feels a sense of discomfort within the house.

Mr. Dalton’s daughter, Mary, chooses to ignore the racial quota of the relationship between black and white people and is overly friendly towards Thomas. Thomas’ first task is to chauffeur Mary and her communist boyfriend around. After driving them around, Mary is too drunk to function and Thomas has to carry her around. It is then he accidentally suffocates her an attempt keep her quiet. Now Thomas is left in fear, not knowing if he can get away with this murder, and whether he will be convicted or not.

This novel was very successful in its time and is still a literary classic that explores heavy topics such as racism, murder, Communism and sexual violence. It only makes sense why this book is in the summer reading curriculum. However, some sophomores feel this book is a little heavy for a book to read during summer vacation, and that it’s too much to comprehend. This book is only given to honor students, as it is meant to be a challenge for them to read. Personally, I enjoyed reading this book, but some of the violence is quite deserving. I feel like on an academic level, it’s still a great read and a book everyone should read in their school career.

Black Boy

The second book sophomore honors students must read for their assignment is Black Boy, also by Richard Wright. Published in 1945, Black Boy is a memoir of Wright’s life, detailing his perceptions on racism, his life story and his affiliation with the Communist party. This memoir is deemed controversial for many reasons. Some see the book as anti-religious and think the novel doesn’t accurately portray racism. However, I think the book gives a unique perception and isn’t a bad read. However, a lot of people who read the book enjoyed it up until it the plot revolved around communism. I personally agree with this because reading so much about the topic we didn’t learn much about in school seems a bit much.

Prior to reading this book, the school curriculum refrains from talking about communism. Thus, giving students a book with such a prominent topic can help expand the minds of readers, but can also be confusing without context.

Overall, I feel these two books are insightful reads that are suitable for summer reading. However, I think these shouldn’t be the books for summer reading every year. That way, different aspects of literature can be explored.