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James Baldwin (1) (1924–1987)

Author of Go Tell It on the Mountain

For other authors named James Baldwin, see the disambiguation page.

103+ Works 33,771 Members 612 Reviews 158 Favorited

About the Author

James Baldwin was born on August 2, 1924, in New York. Baldwin's father was a pastor who subjected his children to poverty, abuse, and religious fanaticism. As a result, many of Baldwin's recurring themes, such as alienation and rejection, are attributable to his upbringing. Living the life of a show more starving artist, Baldwin went through numerous jobs, including dishwasher, office boy, factory worker, and waiter. In 1948, he moved to France, where much work originated. Baldwin published Go Tell It on the Mountain in 1953. A largely autobiographical work, it tells of the religious awakening of a fourteen-year-old. In addition to his childhood experiences, his experiences as a black man and a homosexual provided inspiration for such works as Giovanni's Room, Nobody Knows My Name, and Another Country. Baldwin holds a distinguished place in American history as one of the foremost writers of both black and gay literature. He was an active participant in the Civil Rights movement. Baldwin succumbed to cancer on December 1, 1987. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Works by James Baldwin

Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953) 5,808 copies
Giovanni's Room (1956) 5,612 copies
The Fire Next Time (1963) 4,855 copies
Another Country (1962) 2,958 copies
If Beale Street Could Talk (1974) 2,146 copies
Notes of a Native Son (1955) 2,040 copies
Just Above My Head (1979) 704 copies
No Name in the Street (1972) 450 copies
The Amen Corner: A Play (1954) 222 copies
A Rap on Race (1971) 197 copies
Dark Days {essays} (2018) 151 copies
Nobody Knows My Name {essay} (1961) 112 copies
I Am Not Your Negro [2016 film] (2016) — Writer — 97 copies
Vintage Baldwin (2004) 85 copies
Nothing Personal: An Essay (1964) — Author — 71 copies
Nothing Personal {1964 original} (1964) — Author — 46 copies
A Dialogue (1973) 39 copies
Black Anti-Semitism and Jewish Racism (1969) — Contributor — 38 copies
Nothing Personal {2017 reprint} (2017) — Author — 33 copies
Meurtres à Atlanta (2020) 6 copies
Blues für Mr. Charlie / Amen Corner. (1981) — Author — 4 copies
Mein Kerker bebte (1899) 3 copies
The Outing {story} (2014) 3 copies
Musta blues (1965) 1 copy
Baldwin's Nigger — Host — 1 copy

Associated Works

The Art of the Personal Essay (1994) — Contributor — 1,385 copies
The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction (1983) — Contributor — 1,136 copies
Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama (1995) — Contributor, some editions — 929 copies
The Best American Essays of the Century (2000) — Contributor — 784 copies
The Oxford Book of American Short Stories (1992) — Contributor — 757 copies
If They Come in the Morning: Voices of Resistance (1971) — Contributor — 448 copies
Points of View: Revised Edition (1966) — Contributor — 416 copies
The Granta Book of the American Short Story (1992) — Contributor — 368 copies
The Portable Sixties Reader (2002) — Contributor — 330 copies
The Faber Book of Gay Short Fiction (1992) — Contributor — 324 copies
Americans in Paris: A Literary Anthology (2004) — Contributor — 298 copies
100 Years of the Best American Short Stories (2015) — Contributor — 293 copies
Growing Up Gay/Growing Up Lesbian: A Literary Anthology (1993) — Contributor — 287 copies
Writing New York: A Literary Anthology (1998) — Contributor — 282 copies
The Treasury of American Short Stories (1981) — Contributor — 269 copies
Modern American Memoirs (1995) — Contributor — 190 copies
Daddy Was a Number Runner (1970) — Foreword, some editions — 178 copies
American Religious Poems: An Anthology (2006) — Contributor — 164 copies
The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature (1998) — Contributor — 160 copies
New York Stories (Everyman's Pocket Classics) (2011) — Contributor, some editions — 157 copies
Let Nobody Turn Us Around: An African American Anthology (1999) — Contributor — 151 copies
The Norton Book of Personal Essays (1997) — Contributor — 142 copies
Man Alone: Alienation in Modern Society (1962) — Contributor — 141 copies
Black on White: Black Writers on What It Means to Be White (1998) — Contributor — 120 copies
The Gates of Paradise (1993) — Contributor — 116 copies
The Matter of Black Lives: Writing from The New Yorker (2021) — Contributor — 92 copies
Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black Men in America (1995) — Contributor — 91 copies
Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color (2018) — Contributor — 90 copies
Rotten English: A Literary Anthology (2007) — Contributor — 76 copies
200 Years of Great American Short Stories (1975) — Contributor — 68 copies
Memory of Kin: Stories About Family by Black Writers (1990) — Contributor — 65 copies
American Negro Short Stories (1966) — Contributor — 61 copies
The Grim Reader: Writings on Death, Dying, and Living On (1997) — Contributor — 61 copies
Partisan Review (1998) — Contributor, some editions — 37 copies
Fifty Best American Short Stories 1915-1965 (1965) — Contributor — 36 copies
I Hear a Symphony: African Americans Celebrate Love (1994) — Contributor — 33 copies
The Best American Short Stories 1968 (1968) — Contributor — 33 copies
The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Protest (1998) — Contributor — 31 copies
Harlem U.S.A. (1964) — Contributor — 30 copies
Hot and Cool: Jazz Short Stories (1990) — Contributor — 30 copies
A Lonely Rage: The Autobiography of Bobby Seale (1978) — Foreword — 28 copies
One World of Literature (1992) — Contributor — 24 copies
Classic Essays in English (1961) — Contributor — 22 copies
Studies in Fiction (1965) — Contributor — 22 copies
Best American Plays: 6th Series, 1963-1967 (1971) — Contributor — 20 copies
New World Writing: Second Mentor Selection (1952) — Contributor — 12 copies
Antaeus No. 62, Spring 1989 (1989) — Contributor — 11 copies
100 years of emancipation (1963) — Contributor — 10 copies
The Best American Short Stories 1961 (1961) — Contributor — 10 copies
Harlem: Voices from the Soul of Black America (1970) — Contributor — 10 copies
The Best American Short Stories 1958 (1958) — Contributor — 5 copies
Short Fiction: Shape and Substance (1971) — Contributor — 3 copies
Let Us Be Men (1969) — Contributor — 3 copies
Introduction to Fiction (1974) — Contributor — 1 copy


20th century (484) African American (1,109) African American literature (245) African Americans (209) African-American Literature (194) American (409) American literature (833) anthology (1,128) biography (151) black (148) civil rights (219) classic (154) classics (254) essays (1,516) fiction (3,329) gay (304) Harlem (148) history (292) James Baldwin (178) lgbt (164) LGBTQ (137) Library of America (265) literature (898) memoir (316) New York (240) non-fiction (1,196) novel (592) Paris (209) poetry (245) politics (181) race (579) race relations (153) racism (483) read (288) religion (184) short stories (1,043) to-read (2,686) unread (177) USA (387) writing (183)

Common Knowledge



Where to start with James Baldwin? in Book talk (February 2022)
James Baldwin in Legacy Libraries (March 2016)
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin in Geeks who love the Classics (August 2015)


I wish my high school curriculum had included James Baldwin's If Beale Street Could Talk. Reading it at 33 was powerful. Reading it in high school would have been that much more so. The story it tells is simple yet indelible. Tish and Fonny are teenagers who've grown up in the same neighborhood in New York City their whole lives. They've always been friends, but as they approach adulthood they both come to realize that their bond is love. They're happy, looking forward to starting their lives together, scoping out a loft in which they can live and has space for Fonny to pursue his dreams of being a sculptor. But then there's an accusation: a woman claims that Fonny raped her, and he's jailed pending trial.

Shortly after he's sent away, Tish discovers she's pregnant. Her warm, loving family accepts the news with joy, as does Fonny's father, but his primly religious mother and sisters disapprove. The urgency of Fonny's plight escalates enormously: Tish and her unborn child need him home. Their loved ones undertake extraordinary efforts to gain his release as Tish gets closer to her due date, and she reminisces about how they found themselves in this predicament.

I tend to find, in stories about young lovers, that the lovers themselves are often the least interesting part of it, and it was true for me here as well. While Tish and Fonny's story and the forces that play upon them are powerful, neither of them is an especially vivid character. They're sweet, their love is pure, and it's easy to feel outraged about the injustices visited upon them. Thankfully, Baldwin has surrounded them with an engaging supporting cast. The way Tish's family mobilizes to secure a lawyer for Fonny, and her mother's trip to Puerto Rico to try to find the woman who accused him in particular, create intrigue and drama that keep the story moving forward.

I'll be honest, though: the plot, as thought-provoking and heartwrenching as it can be, isn't the main attraction here. It's the writing. This was my first Baldwin book, and I fell in love with his powerful, lyrical prose. It's not dense, but it is a book that encourages you to read it slowly...each word is chosen with obvious care, and the way he strings them together is masterful. The book may be relatively short, but there's a lot there. I can already tell this is one I'll return to and be able to get even more out of with subsequent readings. I would recommend this book widely, it's beautifully written with a message no less relevant today than when it was published.
… (more)
ghneumann | 60 other reviews | Jun 14, 2024 |
This was pretty good. It was more factual and honest than most books on the subject, and I actually feel like he made a lot of good points with his anecdotal evidence. He told a compelling story, and I generally enjoyed reading it. Worth reading if the plight of the black man interests you (and general injustices, which I feel he alludes to often).
mrbearbooks | 29 other reviews | Apr 22, 2024 |
Absolute gem to start 2015 off. Riveting.
kvschnitzer | 125 other reviews | Apr 12, 2024 |
Unforgettable short stories that paint a portrait of mid 20th century race relations . This portrait, stark and difficult to look at, is richly hewn from the thoughts and interactions of the characters. Some stories were sad, such as "Sonny's Blues", others surprising, such as "Man Child", and others, disturbing ...most notably "Going to Meet the Man".
This collection may have themes and images that will sear your brain make you shudder, but it will also make you think and search your soul.
Chrissylou62 | 15 other reviews | Apr 11, 2024 |


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Jorge Luis Borges Contributor
Charles Bukowski Contributor
Henri Michaux Contributor
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