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If He Hollers Let Him Go by Chester Himes

If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945)

by Chester Himes

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440735,531 (3.81)36
  1. 00
    Little Scarlet by Walter Mosley (tangentialine)
    tangentialine: this takes place during the watts riots of 1965 in L.A. same sense of intolerable tension, same cool bravado on the part of the protagonist, same racial issues, and both great books.

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This is the account of four life-changing days in the life of Robert Jones, a black leaderman of a black crew in a Californian shipyard during WWII. Bob is a fiery man who knows his own worth and tries to assert it in the white world he lives in, even with all the restrictions he knows he have to take into account. But there are things he's not willing to take, and he won't take. And when one of these happens and he is suspended from work because he stood his ground, his entire life is shaken to the roots.
Here starts a wild journey into Bob's soul, while he interrogates himself about what being a black man means in a white, segregated world, and what future there could ever be - what future of fulfilment there could ever be - for a man in his position.

The story is told in the first person by Bob and it's mindblowing. Himes takes you into Bob's heart of hearts and let you into his deepest, more secret thoughts and feelings. Into his most secrets fears, his most unspeakable of hopes, into his deepest frustrations. There had been moments I had to remind myself: "You are not Bob Jones", so deep the identification was. I really thought with him, felt with him, got angry with him, grabbed and lost hopes with him. It's like walking all the way right beside him.

Himes is a master of dialogue. I've always liked his strong grip on people's way of speaking of themselves in the sheer way they speak of anything. Sometimes it's more like listening to his characters than read them.
I've rarely read such an involving story. I enjoyed it a lot. ( )
  JazzFeathers | Jul 27, 2016 |
chester himes is a master. ( )
  julierh | Apr 7, 2013 |
Himes sets his story in WW2 where Bob Jones works as a “Leaderman” for a group of ship builders. After a build up of institutional racism and casual racism on the street Bob loses his temper with a white woman in work who calls him the N word and he cusses her out. From this small incident Bob’s life is soon spiralling out of control. Jones is an angry man and through his eyes we see the unfairness of the oppression that African Americans (and others – most notably the Japanese who are interned at the time the book is set) really is. Jones is not willing to take it lying down and Himes explores the way others react to this including Jones’s girlfriend who, being fair skinned, is more accepted and therefore advises Jones to be more placid. This is a gritty and compelling read in which you share the main character’s frustration.

Overall – highly recommended for thriller fans ( )
  psutto | Mar 12, 2012 |
The first novel by Chester Himes is a powerful, scary and deeply angry book about endemic institutionalised racism in 40s America. Told in 1st person we meet Bob Jones, an ambitious, intelligent, if violent man. Newly promoted and dating a rich beautiful girl he is on the up and up, but he soon finds the promotion is just a sop to the black workers and the promise of equality is a facade. He still has to know his place and the tragedy is he just can't.

This is where its genius lies, the constant build up of slights, pettiness and downright nastiness. How it shapes what he thinks and how it imbues every aspect of his life. You know he should stop but you know that he can't and more importantly why should he? Comparing it to your own life it leaves a bitter taste, the only thing that stops my going to a nice restaurant is money.

It's really the first book I have read that brings everyday bigotry to life and for that fact alone I would highly recommend it . The characters are great, the constant simmering tension makes a great thriller and if sometimes it descends too much into a straight mouth piece, it's still a great story.

One thing though don't read the back, giving endings away is annoying. ( )
1 vote clfisha | Oct 18, 2010 |
If He Hollers Let Him Go: A Novel (Himes, Chester) by Chester Himes (2002)
  cdp02005 | Aug 4, 2009 |
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I dreamed a fellow asked me if I wanted a dog and I said yeah, I'd like to have a dog and he went off and came back with a little black dog with stiff black gold-tipped hair and sad eyes that looked something like a wire-haired terrier.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0938410326, Paperback)

In the decades just prior to the eruption of the American civil rights movement in the late '50s, Chester Himes was one of the most significant African American authors--although today he is less well known than several of his contemporaries. He wrote numerous novels, short stories, essays, and a powerful, searing autobiography, and he did so with an economy of language, a graceful eloquence, and a painful yet unflinching directness.

If He Hollers Let Him Go places Himes in the pantheon of 20th-century novelists. It is an intense and muscular story, with an assembly of characters drawn from virtually every social and economic class present in Southern California in the '40s. The novel takes place over four days in the life of Bob Jones, the only black foreman in a shipyard during World War II. Jones lives in a society literally drenched in race consciousness--every conversation in a bar, every personal relationship, every instruction given on a job site, every casual glance on a sidewalk, every interaction of any kind, no matter how trivial, is imbued with a painful and dangerous meaning. A slight mistake, an unwitting rebellion, an unintentional expression of rage or desire can spell disaster for a black man--a beating over a game of craps, or an arrest, or termination from a job, or an accusation of rape. Jones awakes each day in fear, and lives steeped in fear:

It came along with consciousness. It came into my head first, somewhere back of my closed eyes, moved slowly underneath my skull to the base of my brain, cold and hollow. It seeped down my spine, into my arms, spread through my groin with an almost sexual torture, settled in my stomach like butterfly wings. For a moment I felt torn all loose inside, shriveled, paralyzed, as if after awhile I'd have to get up and die.
For Jones, there is no escape from the constant drumbeat of race and racism. It invades his dreams, his tiniest aspirations, and his deepest passions. Every attempt to retaliate or defend himself leads only to further trouble, loss, or humiliation. He can never forget who he is or what he is prevented from being. At the same time, he comes across as an actor, a subject, a doer, and not as a hapless, helpless victim. For all that he is confronted with, he never stops planning and acting and moving, and in the end, he survives, though his escape is incomplete and bittersweet.

The very idea that Jones can escape, however, marks a revolution in American literature. Thwarted at nearly every turn, he is nonetheless a powerful, intelligent, complicated agent of his own destiny. This 1945 novel is a compelling read, and Chester Himes deserves to be remembered for far more than Cotton Comes to Harlem and the raft of hard-bitten detective novels with which he made his living. --Andrew Himes

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:46 -0400)

Set in southern California in the early forties, the novel spans four days in the life of Bob Jones, a black man relentlessly plagued by the effects of World War II racism.

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