Consistently an outsider—a child of the fundamentalist South with an eighth-grade education, a self-taught intellectual, a black man married to a white woman—Richard Wright nonetheless became the unparalleled voice of his time. The first full-scale biography of the author best known for his searing novels Black Boy and Native Son, Richard Wright: The Life and Times brings the man and his work—in all their complexity and distinction—to vibrant life. Acclaimed biographer Hazel Rowley chronicles Wright’s unprecedented journey from a sharecropper’s shack in Mississippi to Chicago’s South Side to international renown as a writer and outspoken critic of racism.
Drawing on journals, letters, and eyewitness accounts, Richard Wright probes the author’s relationships with Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison, his attraction to Communism, and his so-called exile in France. Skillfully interweaving quotes from Wright’s own writings, Rowley deftly portrays a passionate, courageous, and flawed man who would become one of our most enduring literary figures.
“Splendid. . . . Richard Wright is well written, prodigiously researched, and nicely paced, a compelling evocation of the man, his craft, and the different worlds through which he moved.”—Michael J. Ybarra, Wall Street Journal
“A welcome and illuminating work . . . [Rowley] does an outstanding job. . . . Rich and revealing.”—Megan Harlan, San Francisco Chronicle
“A magnificent biography, subtle and insightful. . . . Rowley writes with style and grace, and her research on Wright is prodigious.”—Howard Zinn, The Week