Stuart Hall Library
Senior Library Assistant
For the second reading group we will read articles by Octavia Butler and James Baldwin exploring the experiences and obsessions that made them become writers: Octavia Butler’s ‘Positive obsession’, from the Blood Child collection, and James Baldwin’s ‘Autobiographical notes’ from Notes of a Native Son. We will read these together in the group, you don’t need to read them in advance.
The writers discuss memories of their childhood and the growing struggle to find a voice. Baldwin writes:
“I think that the past is all that makes the present coherent, and further, that the past will remain horrible for exactly as long as we refuse to assess it honestly.”
Butler writes about her own awkward, uncertain childhood, and the way writing gave her a space in the world:
“I hid out in a big pink notebook – one that would hold a whole ream of paper. I made myself a universe in it. There I could be a magic horse, a Martian, a telepath… There I could be anywhere but here, any time but now, with any people but these.”
Octavia Butler was a prolific American science-fiction author who won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. James Baldwin was an American novelist and social critic, who was active and influential in the African-American civil rights movement.
This reading group is free and open to all.