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James Baldwin
Literary Idol: Nelson George on Chester Himes
Literary Idol: Nelson George on Chester Himes

Literature is a lonely art, but writers keep company with the heroes on their bookshelves. We asked five Festival of Books participants to pay tribute to authors who inspired them.  I grew up reading very respectable, socially conscious black literature by the likes of Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin. "Native Son," "Invisible Man" and "Go Tell It on the Mountain" were the kind of worthy books at the top of any official reading list about the African American experience when I was a teenager in the 1970s. After being baptized in black lit, I expanded my literary worldview by diving deeply into "the lost generation" writings...