In a divided America, James Baldwin’s fiery critiques reverberate anew

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The Trump administration has famously prompted a run on dystopian novels, including George Orwell’s “1984” and Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

More quietly, it has some looking not to futuristic fiction, but to writings from the 1950s and ’60s, to the words of a man who spoke for the alienated and the self-exiled.

To James Baldwin.

“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually,” he wrote in “Notes of a Native Son,” a classic tome of essays illuminating what it is to be black in an America intent on preserving its whiteness.

Take the words out of the 1950s, when they were published, and they could apply to the women in pink hats, the scientists, the Black Lives Matter activists, the climate-change believers and the LGBTQ-rights supporters who have flooded the streets of Washington this year.

Baldwin wanted desperately for his country to deliver on its promise. So does a whole new generation of his fans.

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