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Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
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Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953)

by James Baldwin

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English (39)  Dutch (1)  All languages (40)
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
I am fascinated by first novels. They often tell us a lot about the author. Such is the case with [Go Tell It on the Mountain], James Baldwin's debut novel published in 1953. This book centers around John Grimes on his 14th birthday. John is the son of a harsh father, Gabriel, who is the minister of the Harlem church where most of this book take place, and a gentle mother, Elizabeth, whose past has secrets of its own. As John experiences a spiritual awakening at church one night, the adults reflect on their own lives and the events that have brought them to this day.

But this is much more than a semi-autobiographical story recounting the lives of individuals. It is also the story of a people, a generation, a time and place. The characters in this book have moved from the South to the North, accompanied by hopes for a better life, and Baldwin tells the story of all those who did the same. As one character reflects,

"There was not, after all, a great difference between the world of the North and that of the South, which she had fled; there was only this difference: the North promised more. And this similarity: what it promised it did not give, and what it gave, at length and grudgingly with one hand, it took back with the other." ( )
  porch_reader | Sep 28, 2014 |
Oh man, what a writer. Baldwin makes some of the most real characters I've ever read. And at the same time he writes about humanity, that big picture of humanity. I could read his books forever. ( )
  GraceZ | Sep 6, 2014 |
John Grimes is expected to follow in his father's footsteps and become a preacher. John believes his father hates him. There's just one problem. He has not been saved or called to preach. Most of the action occurs on his 14th birthday at the Harlem church as a result of the prayers of members. We learn about his family and his true relationship to the man he calls father through flashbacks, mostly in the prayer chapters. It's a classic work of African-American fiction and one which will resonate with many readers, particularly those with a Calvinistic bent. ( )
  thornton37814 | Sep 4, 2014 |
Great book. Well worth reading. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
While this book is considered a work of fiction, anyone that is familiar with Baldwin's life story will see an obvious connection. I was immediately whisked away to Harlem, where I was a ghost, hiding in corners watching as the story unfolded and the characters revealed themselves. The book is a story of complex lives entwined with ghosts from the past. I found myself hurting for Deborah and Elizabeth and disliking Gabriel. I wanted to reach out and hug John one minute and the next tell him to 'man up'. This book is a classic that should be required reading in all schools. ( )
  wearylibrarian | Feb 5, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James Baldwinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
O'Hagan, AndrewIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Dedication
For my father and mother
First words
Everyone had always said that John would be a preacher when he grew up, just like his father.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385334575, Paperback)

First published in 1953 when James Baldwin was nearly 30, Go Tell It on the Mountain is a young man's novel, as tightly coiled as a new spring, yet tempered by a maturing man's confidence and empathy. It's not a long book, and its action spans but a single day--yet the author packs in enough emotion, detail, and intimate revelation to make his story feel like a mid-20th-century epic. Using as a frame the spiritual and moral awakening of 14-year-old John Grimes during a Saturday night service in a Harlem storefront church, Baldwin lays bare the secrets of a tormented black family during the depression. John's parents, praying beside him, both wrestle with the ghosts of their sinful pasts--Gabriel, a preacher of towering hypocrisy, fathered an illegitimate child during his first marriage down South and refused to recognize his doomed bastard son; Elizabeth fell in love with a charming, free-spirited young man, followed him to New York, became pregnant with his son, and lost him before she could reveal her condition.

Baldwin lays down the terrible symmetries of these two blighted lives as the ironic context for John's dark night of the soul. When day dawns, John believes himself saved, but his creator makes it clear that this salvation arises as much from blindness as revelation: "He was filled with a joy, a joy unspeakable, whose roots, though he would not trace them on this new day of his life, were nourished by the wellspring of a despair not yet discovered."

Though it was hailed at publication for its groundbreaking use of black idiom, what is most striking about Go Tell It on the Mountain today is its structure and its scope. In peeling back the layers of these damaged lives, Baldwin dramatizes the story of the great black migration from rural South to urban North. "Behind them was the darkness," Baldwin writes of Gabriel and Elizabeth's lost generation, "nothing but the darkness, and all around them destruction, and before them nothing but the fire--a bastard people, far from God, singing and crying in the wilderness!" This is Baldwin's music--a music in which rhapsody is rooted anguish--and there is none finer in American literature. --David Laskin

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:14 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

As one of the century's premier American writers, James Baldwin has profoundly altered the nation's social and literary consciousness. "Go Tell It on the Mountain", Baldwin's first novel, brings Harlem and the black experience vividly to life, as it starkly contrasts two generations of an embattled black family.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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