ATTN: This is Charles Greene’s blog post, inclusive of his thoughts, impressions and analysis (intellectually property). Please count this towards Greene’s class requirement and contribution. I, Allison Guess (Co-Instructor in this BlackListed course and colleague of Charles), am posting this on Charles Greene’s behalf. May 4, 2018
Chester Himes, “Yesterday Will Make You Cry” Charles Greene (Blog Post by Charles Greene)
Chester Himes “Yesterday Will Make You Cry” makes one wonder is it life imitating art or the other way around. Especially considering the amount of time Mr. Himes spent in prison. Yet, it is probably a combination of both. What I appreciated about reading this book is how Himes instilled humanity in his clients in a place like prison. Most prison stories are about hardened criminals that can care less about other people’s feelings or humanity. The fact that he made his main character, Jimmy Monroe, a white man was interesting in itself. Particularly considering the context of when this book was written and the historical backdrop. Considering this book was written in 1937, pre-World War II and depression era, yet at the pinnacle of segregation and America’s racist legacy, it’s no wonder that this book didn’t receive the attention it since has received. That he had the courage to honestly tackle prison brutality and homosexuality reflects that he was ahead of his time. Yet, his frankness and where the country was psychologically obviously speaks to why it took four visions and a different version, Cast the First Stone, to be released 16 years later. It is fascinating how Himes was able to weave loneliness, loss of freedom, desperation, and hope seamlessly throughout the story. Speaking of turning lemons into lemonade, the coincidental fate of Himes being convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison, and by the end of his sentence being a well-known published author is phenomenal alone. Yet, not lost on me is the irony that the publication of Himes impressive prison novel coincides with the United States being the number one incarcerator of its citizen’s worldwide. Nonetheless, “Yesterday Will Make You Cry” exemplifies the resilience of humanity in the face of the most humiliating and oppressive of circumstances.