I came to Baldwin around the age of 14 (I am now 47 - a white Britain who prefers to be known as a citizen of the world) and he marked me. His extraordinary stories about a life so foreign in many ways to my own, and yet still having some resonance. Stories about people. I grew up in a multi-cultural school in South London and had friends from all parts of the world - or whose families originated in other parts of the world - and when I left school to go into the big wide world I wondered where all my colourful friends had disappeared to, so even in 70s London, there was some echos of Baldwin's experiences. But for me as much for the learning he offered me about his life of colour, his 'outsiderness' - which I could sometimes relate to especially - it was the wonderful writing. I'm a big fan of American Literature, so if I could only take two writers with me to the desert island (Shakespeare already awaiting me) it would be Baldwin and F Scott Fitzgerald. The writing of both is mindblowing, and they both have so much to say about modern life - whenever that modern life occurs - I'm sure even in the 23rd Century they will have something to say - about race/class/variety/diversity/pain and laughter. And joy, let's not forget joy.
As well as the novels and short stories the powerful and fiery essays burned in my soul, made me question, led me to other African American writers and artists and spirits.