“Sonny’s Blues” – James Baldwin (1957)

1960s: Days of Rage


“‘Sonny’s Blues’ is a 1957 short story written by James Baldwin, originally published in Partisan Review. The story contains the recollections of a black algebra teacher in 1950s Harlem as he reacts to his brother Sonny’s drug addiction, arrest, and recovery. Baldwin republished the work in the 1965 short story collection Going to Meet the Man. ‘Sonny’s Blues’ is a story written in the first-person singular narrative style. The story opens with the unnamed narrator reading about a heroin bust resulting in the arrest of a man named Sonny, his brother. The narrator goes about his day as an algebra teacher at a high school in Harlem, but begins to ponder Sonny’s fate and worry about the boys in his class. After school, he meets a friend of Sonny, who laments Sonny will struggle with loneliness even after his detox and release. After the narrator’s…

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