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Jazz Diasporas"Race, Music, and Migration in Post-World War II Paris"$
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Rashida K. Braggs

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780520279346

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520279346.001.0001

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Boris Vian and James Baldwin in Paris

Boris Vian and James Baldwin in Paris

Are We a Blues People, Too?

(p.125) 4. Boris Vian and James Baldwin in Paris
Jazz Diasporas

Rashida K. Braggs

University of California Press

This chapter conjoins the literature and experiences of white French writer and musician Boris Vian and African American writer James Baldwin to explore how the authors' in-depth listening to blues unearthed black rage and prompted confrontations with black identity in their writings. Vian imagines the rage and pain of African Americans from a distance, as he plays alongside jazz musicians in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. He draws on the blues to literally write himself into an African American experience. Baldwin experiences dislocation from his homeland, yet greater understanding of his African American heritage while residing in Lausanne, Switzerland, and Paris, France. Listening to the blues and staging blues performance in his literature pushes Baldwin and his readers into a confrontation with African American identity. Looking at these two writers in concert with their counterparts in the United States, Ralph Ellison, Albert Murray, and Amiri Baraka, reveals how their blues literature addresses the concerns and struggles of African Americans in the diaspora and expands who may be included in a community of blues people and “black music.”

Keywords:   Boris Vian, James Baldwins, blues, African American identity, Ralph Ellison, Albert Murray, Amiri Baraka, black identity

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