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After John Howard Griffin's escape from Nazi-occupied France, he was shipped to the South Pacific, where he was stationed as an isolated observer in the Solomon Islands. That experience led to his second novel, Nuni (1956). As in his first novel, The Devil Rides Outside, an American professor is confronted by an alien reality. In Nuni, that reality is a "primitive," almost Neolithic society. Yet, the professor's intellectual accomplishments are useless here, his place in both family and civilized society meaningless. He learns to cope, not so much in terms of survival as in finding a new meaning to his life. The Chicago Tribune described Nuni as "an extraordinarily interesting account of a white man's life in a savage island village of the Pacificthe greater part of the novel is concerned with the growth in the narrator, a knowledge of as well as affection for the curiously innocent people." The Dallas Times-Herald wrote: "The two greatest novels of the past decade are William Faulkner's A Fable, and John Howard Griffin's Nuni."
Published: Wings Press an imprint of Independent Publishers Group on Oct 1, 2010
ISBN: 9781609401443
List price: $9.99
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I am a white man from England and reading this book filled me with rage. I can't believe that this book was written in 1959. Just over fifty years ago black people could not go onto the beach in certain areas. They could not go into certain restaurants and not even use the same toilets as the white man. Despicable. The book is a must read for everyone to get a true feel of what went on and what must never be forgotten.read more
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Fascinating glimpse into a nasty piece of American history. It's difficult to imagine the world that Griffin entered. It's completely unfathomable how people can treat people worse than animals just because of their skin color.I hope the world has come a long way in the 50 years since this "experiment" was undertaken because it was shameful to see what Griffin experienced as a black man.read more
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What a heart-wrenching book! It gave me a much deeper understanding of the times of the civil rights movement, and even of the racism against blacks today.read more
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I am a white man from England and reading this book filled me with rage. I can't believe that this book was written in 1959. Just over fifty years ago black people could not go onto the beach in certain areas. They could not go into certain restaurants and not even use the same toilets as the white man. Despicable. The book is a must read for everyone to get a true feel of what went on and what must never be forgotten.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Fascinating glimpse into a nasty piece of American history. It's difficult to imagine the world that Griffin entered. It's completely unfathomable how people can treat people worse than animals just because of their skin color.I hope the world has come a long way in the 50 years since this "experiment" was undertaken because it was shameful to see what Griffin experienced as a black man.
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What a heart-wrenching book! It gave me a much deeper understanding of the times of the civil rights movement, and even of the racism against blacks today.
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Why does this book earn five stars? Because it was the kickoff book for what we of the 1960s called "the revolution" of the civil rights movement. Griffin writes concisely and laterally about what it feels to be a white man becoming black in the Deep South and the ways that whikte society keep the black people down "in their place", raanging from the companyh store to voter qualification test. Here is a good extract from the book. Armed with the voting rights act, a black man came into the county courthouse to cast his vote for his candidates. He had to take a test to determine his elgibility. Here it is: "Can you recite the fifth paragraph of the U.S. Constitution?" The prospective voter did so. Can youj tell me the presidents from 1840 through 1860, their terms of office, and what they were known for doing while in office? The black man did so. The "tester" then handed the man a newspaper printed in Chinese and asked him to read the lead paragraph of the top story. "I can naot make out the whole paragraph but I can read the headline," the black man said. Incredulous, the white sheriff's deputy said: "What? You can read the headline? What does it say?" "It says," said the black man, "This is one black man who isn't gonna vote in the state of Mississippi this year."
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This very readable book holds up well despite the nearly five decades that have passed and enormous social changes that have taken place since its writing in 1960. The author's good intentions and sincere concern outweigh occasional slips into paternalism (and, understandably, a sexism that went hand-in-hand with the time in which the book was written). If anything, Griffin's indictment of pre-Civil Rights era racism in the American South reminds us of how far we have yet to go before racial equality is truly achieved.John Howard Griffin, a white writer with keen interest in race relations, decides to undertake a social experiment in which he artifically darkens his skin and travels across the South as a black man, in order to observe the way in which the change in the color of his skin affects the way he is treated, and to understand (as well as a white man could) the life of a black man living in the South of late 1959.In his weakest moments, Griffin strikes a presumptuous paternalistic tone, as when he first dons his black skin and looks into the mirror: "I looked into the mirror and saw reflected nothing of the white John Griffin's past. No, the reflection led back to Africa, back to the shanty and the ghetto, back to the fruitless struggles against the mark of blackness. Suddenly, with almost no mental preparation, no advance hint, it became clear and permeated my whole being" (p. 16). Griffin's words also occasionally (and distractingly) betray the sexism of his era, as when he feels it necessary to refer a female professor of sociology at Spelman College not simply as "Dr. Moreland," but as "Dr. Moreland (Mrs. Charles Moreland)" (p. 136). Overall Griffin does a decent job of avoiding sentimentality and tells us like it was, though now and then he falls into the trap of downplaying disunity among African-Americans and paints a picture of undisturbed harmony between all black people (not unlike the myth of the "Noble Savage" still subscribed to by many regarding American Indians and other non-white races).On the other hand, much of what Griffin says is still true today: "The great danger in the South comes precisely from the fact that the public is not informed. Newspapers shirk notoriously their editorial responsibilities and print what they think their readers want. They lean with the prevailing winds and employ every fallacy of logic in order to editorialize harmoniously with popular prejudices" (p. 134), and "The Negro [sic] does not understand the white any more than the white understands the Negro [sic]" (p. 156). Griffin is at his strongest when he speaks personally and passionately, condemning racism in all its forms, as in his closing words: "If some spark does set the keg afire, it will be a senseless tragedy of ignorant against ignorant, injustice answering injustice -- a holocaust that will drag down the innocent and the right-thinking mass of human beings. Then we will all cry for not having cried for justice long ago" (pp. 156-157).Reading this book is a healthy exercise for anyone wishing to improve their understanding of mid-century race relations in the American South.
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Brave, chilling, and honest. When John Howard Griffin sets out to discover the truth about racism in the deep south in the late 50's, the results of his daring experiment would become a literary sensation around the world. As you read, you can't help but wonder what the results of such an experiment would be today. While there can be no doubt we've made great progress in the last 50 years, this book also serves as a reminder that we've still got a long way to go. A great read for today, and a great reminder of who we were as a people half a century ago. I strongly recommend it.
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