Bigger: A Literary Life

Available for Special Order
Bigger: A Literary Life
A biography of Native Son's Bigger Thomas that examines his continued relevance in debates over Black men and the violence of racism

Bigger Thomas, the central figure in Richard Wright's novel Native Son (1940), eludes easy categorization. A violent and troubled character who rejects the rules of society, Bigger is both victim and perpetrator, damaged by racism and segregation on the South Side of Chicago, seemingly raping and killing without regrets. His story has electrified readers for more than eight decades, and it continues to galvanize debates around representation, respectability, social justice, and racism in American life.

In this book, distinguished scholar Trudier Harris examines the literary life of Bigger Thomas from his birth to the current day. Harris explores the debates between Black critics and Communist artists in the 1930s and 1940s over the "political novel," the censorship of Native Son by white publishers, and the work's initial reception--as well as interpretations from Black feminists and Black Power activists in the decades that followed, up to the novel's resonance with the Black Lives Matter movement today. Bigger, Harris argues, represents the knotted heart of American racism, damning and unsettling, and still very much with us.

Publication Date: 
June 18, 2024