Monday, December 17, 2007
BLACK LIKE ME by John Howard Griffin
Originally published in 1961, Black Like Me is the account of how white journalist John Howard Griffin had his skin medically darkened and traveled through the Deep South as a black man in an attempt to explain the hardships black people in the South faced. It also covers the backlash against the publication of his story.
Black Like Me is a concise, fast and engaging read. The reader is often able to see things through Griffin's eyes, even as Griffin tries to see things through the eyes of others. He does an excellent job communicating the cultures of fear and despair he encountered. The entire account of his travels as a black man is riveting.
If there is any nit-picking to be done, let it be for this: at times, particularly early on, Griffin's descriptions of mundane, everyday objects and details seem forced and do not aid the narrative.
While today's racial tensions are much less overt (and much less publicized), Black Like Me still has quite a bit to say about the universal elements of human nature and the culture of racism.