The Quality of Hurt : The autobiography of Chester Himes

“This volume of my autobiography recounts all that memory retains of the forty-five year of my hurt. America hurt me terribly, whether rightly or wrongly is not the point. When I fought back through writing it decided to kill me, whether because I was a degenerate ex-convict who refused to wear sackcloth and ashes, a Negro who refused to accept the Negro Problem as my own, a ‘nigger’ who would not conform to the existence prescribed for niggers, or a black man who pitied white women, I will never know. I do know that when America kills a nigger it expects him to remain dead. But I didn’t know I was supposed to die. I still had hope. I still believed in the devil. But at age forty-five, while trying to make a white woman feel safe, I suddenly realized that I had never been safe. Fear erased my hurt. I became afraid to live. Fortunately the desperate struggle for life informed me that the only place where I was safe was in my skin.” –Jacket of volume 1