This haunting coming-of-age story, based in part on James Baldwin’s childhood in Harlem, is an American classic.
Originally published in 1953, Go Tell It on the Mountain was Baldwin’s first major work. With a potent combination of lyrical compassion and resonant rage, he portrays a fourteen-year-old boy questioning the terms of his identity. John Grimes is the stepson of a fire-breathing and abusive Pentecostal preacher in Harlem during the Depression. The action of this short novel spans a single day in John’s life, and yet manages to encompass on an epic scale his family’s troubled past and his own inchoate longings for the future, set against a shining vision of a city where he both does and does not belong. Baldwin’s story illuminates the racism his characters face as well as the double-edged role religion plays in their lives, both oppressive and inspirational. In prose that mingles gritty vernacular cadences with exalted biblical rhythms, Baldwin’s rendering of his young protagonist’s struggle to invent himself pioneered new possibilities in American language and literature.
James Baldwin (1924–1987) was a novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. His first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, appeared in 1953 to excellent reviews, and his essay collections Notes of a Native Son and The Fire Next Time were bestsellers that made him an… More about James Baldwin
“With vivid imagery, with lavish attention to details, Mr. Baldwin has told his feverish story.” —The New York Times “Brutal, objective and compassionate.” —San Francisco Chronicle “It is written with poetic intensity and great narrative skill.” —Harper’s
“Strong and powerful.” —Commonweal
“A sense of reality and vitality that is truly extraordinary. . . . He knows Harlem, his people, and the language they use.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“This is a distinctive book, both realistic and brutal, but a novel of extraordinary sensitivity and poetry.” —Chicago Sunday Tribune