“But to look back from the stony plain along the road which led one to that place is not at all the same thing as walking on the road; the perspective to say the very least, changes only with the journey; only when the road has, all abruptly and treacherously, and with an absoluteness that permits no argument, turned or dropped or risen is one able to see all that one could not have seen from any other place.”Go Tell It On The Mountain
Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin is my first James Baldwin novel and I think it is impossible to not be overwhelmed with thoughts. This is a semi-autobiography, based on Baldwin’s life. The protagonist is John, a 14-year-old boy in Harlem in 1935. John is faced with discovering himself, his place in his family–not to mention in the world and the difference between religion and spirituality. His father is a pastor and is intensely passionate about religion but also physically and emotionally abusive to his family. The novel then shows the points of view of Gabriel (John’s father), Florence (John’s aunt), and Elizabeth (John’s mother). All of these stories combine to show racism and poverty in that time, as well as the community.
This is a heavy read, full of all the complexities of life, especially for Black Americans. It isn’t a long book, but it does take a long time to read. There is so much to break down, especially with the characters. The writing is poetic and heavy with emotion. There is so much happening within the community, especially in regards to the Pentecostal Church. While the book does take place in Harlem, it also highlights the atrocities that are happening in the South. While religion is a huge part of the novel, it is more of an examination of oneself in the eyes of the church. John is struggling with his sexuality and trying to understand where that fits in. There is a negative stigma when it comes to sex in general, let alone discovering one’s sexuality.
It is amazing how James Baldwin is able to incorporate so much, with full understanding, without rushing. Every moment is perfectly executed. When John finds out the truth behind his past, it ripped my heart out, but Baldwin brings it all together at the end, giving John the power to be himself. If you haven’t read this book…you need to read it. It is unbelievably powerful and I can’t wait to pick up my next James Baldwin book. 5 out of 5 stars!