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Go Tell It on the Mountain

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Book Overview

" Mountain ," Baldwin said, "is the book I had to write if I was ever going to write anything else." Go Tell It On The Mountain , first published in 1953, is Baldwin's first major work, a novel that... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

Black church affects Black community, for better and worse

Jesus said, "A man's enemies will be the members of his own household" (Matthew 10:36), and "No prophet is accepted in his hometown" (Luke 4:24). This idea certainly plays out in the Grimes family of James Baldwin's "Go Tell It on the Mountain" (1952). Except for John's mother Elizabeth, the adult Grimeses have no idea that love, familial love, is supposed to include favor (not favoritism like the father Gabriel's), the idea of blessing each other with good words, good will, and heartfelt affection. Unfortunately, the novel's Black Christians' idea of goodness and holiness is colored by the master's idea of a good slave: docile, acquiescent, submissive, silent in the face of abuse, always needing to prove your worth. "Blessed Assurance" isn't one of their songs."Go Tell" presents not only the story of John's 14th birthday, but the past stories of Elizabeth, Gabriel, and Aunt Florence. Whereas Gabriel's spiritual journey--if you can call it that--at about age 21 is born of desperation and remorse after much self-abuse and self-indulgence, John's spiritual journey on his 14th birthday is one of insight and refuge after much abuse and neglect. Gabriel indulges and denies his dark side, projecting his evil onto others. John wonders over his own evil thoughts, seeking to reconcile his light and dark sides. John's family and people have been cursed by the white-oriented world, and by a false interpretation of the scripture, namely the curse of Noah upon Canaan. Believing this curse, Gabriel in turn, without meaning to, curses his children. Will any of the Grimes family truly experience being, like Israel, heirs to the promises of God, as well as heirs to the world's persecution and heartache? John perceives that Gabriel, or some unacknowledged dark part of Gabriel, would rather see him damned than saved, would rather keep John as a bastard child, "son of the slave woman", as someone to look down upon--similar to the cutting attitude that Gabriel and his sister Florence have toward each other. However, John, born in New York City, a generation removed from Jim Crow, just might become the first person in his family to start to throw off the reproach of Egypt (see Joshua 5:9)--that is, of slavery. That is, if his anger and hatred don't overtake him first."Go Tell" is an excellent exploration of how the "Black church" has both upheld and held back African-Americans through slavery, Jim Crow, the Northern migration, and racism.

Sweeter the Second Time Around

This was my second time reading this masterpiece;the first time in the early 70s. I don't remember what I thought about it then, though I remember it leaving an impression. The writing then and moreso now is writing at its best from a master in my opinion. Yes it is complex, convoluted, disturbing at times but for me it flowed. Not everyone can write fire and brimstone, sin and redemption in literary terms. I am in awe of his genius.During one night at a prayer service, four individuals stories are told. John, on this day has just turned fourteen years old and is trying to make sense of his life. Gentle, intelligent, he wanted so much to please the man who he thought of as his father. He had potential to expand his life beyond the limitations in front of him. Gabriel, wretched, tortured soul, a man who refused to take responsibility for his actions. Saved, sanctified and fill with the Holy Ghost, his mistreatment of his first wife, Deborah, his discard lover, Esther, his present wife Elizabeth and his son John is what kept him from being the minister that he was in his youth before he fell from grace. Elizabeth, proud and determined, she wanted John to have the same love from Gabriel that he gave to his other "natural" sons. A woman who accepted her circumstances; she has lost her first true love, Richard and was resigned to accepting Gabriel's hand in marriage to redeem her sin. Florence, too proud for her own good Bitter, resentful of her brother Gabriel and now perhaps facing death, she has lived a live of unfulfilled dreams. Where we they all stand after they haved poured their hearts and souls on the alter? Secrets, dreams, hopes are revealed. Told in a language of complexity full of allegories, symbolism, Bible similies, it is no wonder it is taught in universities around the country. I am on a quest to read re-read Baldwin's books that I have read and read others that I have not. Nobody does it better.

A strong an poignant tour of the human condition

First I want to say. I really don't understand how anyone with enough intelligence to load this site and write a review (and it doesn't take much) could speak so critically about such a powerful book. I can't even dismiss two of the reviews as complaints of illiterate teenagers. How can anyone ignore the universal theme of the book, the human condition. The entrapment of an individual inside personal, ethnic, religious, racial, and/or ancestral bonds. As for the "boringness" of the book, it seems to me that any one could appreciate this book, it is jsut as captivating as any thriller. John's struggle with his own identity as a person, a "saint", and African-American, is captivating. Yes we all go through the same type of self-discovery, but no one captures, in such eloquent wording, the angst of such a revelation. In response to the critique of Baldwin's writing style. I can see how some people might not be able to have patience for his elongated sentences, and biblical references. And if you are too frustrated to make it through the entire book, I think I might understand...but please don't downgrade what you have read. Baldwin's work is likely the "Pit and the Pendulum" of the 20th Century. I would aslo like to say to the highschool students who read this book, that if I can appreciate it (and I am sixteen) I think you can too.

Who Should Read This Book

Looking over the reviews, I was surprised at how often reviewers said this books was tedious to them. I found it one of the strongest and most powerful books I have read it a long time, with language that was exalted, and often hymn-like in its quality.Concerning the book, then, I would like to suggest a couple of things to readers and to those who suggest books for others to read:1)Don't read this book unless you know your Bible well, particularly the King James version. Without this as your base, I would guess that you'd find the language incredibly dense, and most of Baldwin's allusive power will blow past you.2)Don't read this book unless you have some experience in life. Again, I would think that the way Baldwin is able to put deep inner struggles and the feelings that rise from hard experience into words will remain lost to you unless you've had some hard experience of your own.3) If you're not African American, a little pre-reading into the Black experience in America might be helpful first, looking into particularly the Great Migration, the Azusa street revival, and the rise of the storefront church.4) Practice reading the book out loud!! Many passages were written in an almost oral form, the kind one hears in preaching, with rolling sentences that seem to go on forever. Don't let the long sentences intimidate. Rather let them sweep you along, phrase for phrase, as they're meant to.

Go Tell It on the Mountain Mentions in Our Blog

Go Tell It on the Mountain in Remembering James Baldwin
Remembering James Baldwin
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • August 01, 2021

James Baldwin was born on August 2, 1924. Though he died at age 63, he left behind a powerful legacy. His provocative essays introduced fresh ways of thinking about society. His fiction and poetry broke new ground, exploring themes around masculinity, sexuality, race, and class.

Go Tell It on the Mountain in 8 Quintessentially American Authors
8 Quintessentially American Authors
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • July 03, 2020

Today's America is hard to define. A land of promise. A melting pot. A country of immigrants. A study in contrasts. We are young. We are optimistic. We are angry. We are evolving. Here are eight contemporary authors who represent and celebrate the glorious diversity of the American experience.

Go Tell It on the Mountain in 9 Must-Read Books by Contemporary Black Authors
9 Must-Read Books by Contemporary Black Authors
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • February 05, 2020

For Black History month we've decided to bring you a series featuring great black writers from four distinct genres. This week, our focus is contemporary authors—from the Harlem Renaissance groundbreakers to exciting newcomers of today.

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