This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Go Tell It on the Mountain (original 1953; edition 1985)

by James Baldwin (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,406861,843 (3.87)403
A young black boy in the 1930's tries to win the respect of his stepfather.
Title:Go Tell It on the Mountain
Authors:James Baldwin (Author)
Info:Dell (1985), Edition: Reprint, 272 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

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



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 403 mentions

English (83)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (86)
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
It's the morning of John’s 14th birthday inb1930’s Harlem. His stepfather, Gabriel, is a Pentecostal preacher who has not reached a position of authority in the church. He’s a stern man, and overly strict with John.

John is a Believing member of the church, attending all the services and spending hours doing necessary cleaning chores that few other volunteer to do. But John has not yet been saved – members of this church believe that to be saved, one must be touched by the Holy Spirit. This is usually accompanied by an often manic, but trance like state.

Slowly the backstories of the people surrounding John are revealed. His stepfather, mother and aunt have all had troubled pasts, with secrets kept from the Christian flock.

While we are told the backstories, we can only assume that the child John does not know any but perhaps the barest details. At the climax, on the evening of John’s birthday a significant event happens on the evening of John’s birthday; other events are foreshadowed. We see glimmers of the man John will be.

In this novel, religion is something to aspire to, but what is attained does not seem Christ-like. It is sometimes a comfort, but at other times used as a judgement and a weapon against others. Falls from grace seem to have hardened hearts rather than teaching mercy for the human condition. But for all its failings, the church is an anchor for the black community, many who migrated from the southern states looking for a different life.

1001 Books calls this a ‘semi-autobiographical’ novel. ( )
  streamsong | Jul 27, 2020 |
Beautiful and crushing, this novel is filled with fraught family relationships. A preacher named Gabriel is a cruel and selfish example to his children. We meet them as they struggle under his reign. Then we travel back to see how Gabriel's sins, his sister Florence's heartbreak and the women in Gabriel's life have shaped the world in which the children are raised.

It reminded me so much of a new play called, "The First Deep Breath". You can tell much of the work was inspired by this patriarch preacher and his relationship with his sons. Baldwin captures the pain in their world while telling their story with such passion and poetry.

“The rebirth of the soul is perpetual; only rebirth every hour could stay the hand of Satan.”

“His mind was like the sea itself: troubled, and too deep for the bravest man's descent, throwing up now and again, for the naked eye to wonder at, treasure and debris long forgotten on the bottom—bones and jewels, fantastic shells, jelly that had once been flesh, pearls that had once been eyes. And he was at the mercy of this sea, hanging there with darkness all around him.”

“Looking at his face, it sometimes came to her that all women had been cursed from the cradle; all, in one fashion or another, being given the same cruel destiny, born to suffer the weight of men. ( )
  bookworm12 | Jul 21, 2020 |
This book takes place in the 1930s and is an exploration of Black lives as the first generations experience "freedom" and the possibility of movement. John is a teenager trying to find his way to adulthood in New York. His family is complex and their experience forms the bulk of the novel, showing how much family life and complexities influence the path of children.

John's father Gabriel (well, stepfather) is a troubled Pentecostal minister and the book is almost overwhelmed with his ideas of sin and hell and being born again. Despite his strong views (or maybe because of!) he sins again and again with women, blaming them for his sins and leaving fatherless children along the way. John's mother, Elizabeth, had been involved with a man who ended up falsely accused of robbery and who is beaten badly by the police and commits suicide. Because John is born out of wedlock, Gabriel considers Elizabeth a fallen women and treats her as such, though he does marry her and raise John. Gabriel's sister, Florence, has also escaped the South and is living in New York. Her sad, troubling story is revealed as well.

This book was a mixed bag for me. The character's stories were powerful and real. That part of the book was very meaningful to me. And Baldwin's writing is lyrical and confident and memorable. The religious diatribes, though, really put me off. Even knowing that Baldwin himself was making commentary on the damaging nature of this sort of extreme Christianity didn't help. It was painful and annoying to read. I'm glad I persevered though, because in the end this is an important and powerful book that is sadly still relevant today. I'm looking forward to reading more of Baldwin's writing.

Original publication date: 1953
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 272 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle purchase
Why I read this: off the shelf, 1001 books ( )
  japaul22 | Jul 12, 2020 |
So as I said initially this book was a little bit weird for me. I think it's because we follow several characters and I thought the latter half of the book just was not that great because of all of the jumping around that takes place.

The main part of the story takes place in Harlem in the 1930s.

The first character in this book is John Grimes. John is 14 years old and wakes up on his birthday realizing that no one seems to realize that fact. John feels lost and lonely because he is constantly being told how much his father loves him, though his father shows his love through constant beatings and yelling at his children.

The book then transitions over to John's aunt Florence. Florence was raised in the south by her mother and had to deal with her mother constantly forgiving her brother Gabriel for all of the "sin" that he got up to.

Then the story moves onto Gabriel who we get to see how he transitioned to becoming a Reverend. We follow him through his first marriage and his affair with a young woman named Esther. And then from there we go to John's mother's story (Elizabeth) and then back to John's point of view.

I thought the book was quite clever in the way it was broken up (we get chapter headings for the different characters) but do have to say that the flow was a bit off between Florence and Gabriel's sections and once again once we left Ellizabeth's section for John's.

The running theme through this book in my head was how people used religion at times to either comfort or as a weapon against others. We had John feeling being tossed into hell if he does not submit to God and his father. We have Florence's dying mother praying that she turns away from the lake of fire (i.e. doesn't leave her mother to go live up North) otherwise she be forever lost. We have Gabriel seeing Esther as a sin and that after Gabriel turns away from her she ends up "cursing" him by telling him that he will not be able to walk away from what he had done ever.

I found the character of Florence and Elizabeth more interesting than anyone else in this book. Florence is bitter and angry by the favoritism that Gabriel got all of his life, and over her own wasted life. I felt pity for her and think that no matter what, she's never going to be satisfied even if her brother's whole family ended up walking away from him some day. The characters is too eaten up inside we see by jealously of other people and what they have (in her mind).

Elizabeth dealt with a ton of things and though she seems weak to John, I am glad that she refused to bow down and let Gabriel force her to repent having John.

I can honestly say I loathed the character of Gabriel a lot. Probably because he reminded me a of few holier than thou people I knew when I was younger who would use religion as way to keep people down rather than using it to raise them up.

The ending left me feeling sad because in the end I think that John will never receive love or acceptance from his father. Florence will never be happy. She will still be angry and bitter until she dies. Elizabeth I think realizes that she did the best she could with Gabriel, but she is angry that she realizes that he is going to make her pay for her "sin" while they are married. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
This is a short book that feels like a long book. It is intense and powerful, and - in my experience - mentally draining. I love Baldwin, but I don’t think I was in the right frame of mind to give this book the attention it deserves and, as a result, learn the lessons it has to offer. I hope to reread this one day and see all its wisdom and beauty, because I know it’s there. ( )
  frtyfour | Jun 16, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James Baldwinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cosgrave, John O'HaraIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, DianeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, LeoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Hagan, AndrewIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
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.
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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
First edition was in 1953. Corgi editions show copyright date as 1954. The US Catalog of copyright entries for Jan-June 1953 details that application for copyright stated that 'the section "Exodus" appeared in the Aug. 1952 issue of American mercury, and "Roy's wound" in New world writing, 1952'.
Publisher's editors
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


A young black boy in the 1930's tries to win the respect of his stepfather.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (3.87)
0.5 1
1 6
2 37
2.5 11
3 161
3.5 50
4 273
4.5 37
5 182

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 150,722,206 books! | Top bar: Always visible