2009: 156. Go Tell It On The Mountain

“Everyone had always said that John would be a preacher when he grew up, just like his father.”

Go Tell it on the Mountain, James Baldwin

       I loved this book.  I cannot help (and perhaps this is racist, but so be it) but compare it to the two other books I read on the Modern Library List that were written by famous black Americans, Native Son and Invisible Man, and Go Tell it on the Mountain was by far my favorite.  All are fabulous, of course, but Baldwin was the one I enjoyed the most.*  I think the reason was that while all three books deal with being black in America, Go Tell it on the Mountain  was about something else, too - and in that sense it seemed more effective to me, because its treatment of race in America was less of a bludgeon and more of a rapier.  Its a bildungsroman, the story of John, growing up in New York, and trying to make sense of his life.  What is his relationship with his father? What is is relationship with God? Will he be a preacher, like everyone expects, or will he instead engage with the secular world?  It is also the story of his father, his mother, and his aunt, and through each character we learn more about the family, about the characters, and about being black - and being American.  I loved the characters - I loved how each character seemed like a real person, with warts and with dignity.  I loved how the women were as real and compelling as the men - and how we saw how each character, no matter how flawed (like John’s father, for one), had become the person they were so that we understood, and even sympathize with them.

          I just read another book, a “great books” type list that recommends Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room as one of the books you should read and I have to saw that I am eager to read more of his work.  

Date/Place Completed:  December 2009; on the (10 hour) train back to D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Modern Library Top 100, Book Resolutions


*The Modern Library disagrees - they ranked the it much lower than the other two.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017