Presents a semi-autobiographical exploration of the troubled life of the Grimes family in Harlem during the Depression.
Nothing but the darkness, and all around them destruction, and before them nothing but the fire--a bastard people, far from God, singing and crying in the wilderness!" First published in 1953, Baldwin's first novel is a short but intense, semi-autobiographical exploration of the troubled life of the Grimes family in Harlem during the Depression.
'I had to deal with what hurt me most. I had to deal with my father.' Drawing on James Baldwin's own boyhood in a religious community in 1930s Harlem, his first novel tells the story of young Johnny Grimes. Johnny is destined to become a preacher like his father, Gabriel, at the Temple of the Fire Baptized, where the church swells with song and it is as if 'the Holy Ghost were riding on the air'. But he feels only scalding hatred for Gabriel, whose fear and fanaticism lead him to abuse his family. Johnny vows that, for him, things will be different. This blazing tale is full of passion and guilt, of secret sinners and prayers singing on the wind. 'A beautiful, enduring, spirtual song of a novel' Andrew O'Hagan 'With vivid imagery, with lavish attention to details, Mr. Baldwin has told his feverish story' The New York Times
Born in Harlem in 1924, Baldwin had an early career as a teenage preacher. He lived in Paris from 1948-1956 and his first novels, the autobiographical GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN and GIOVANNI'S ROOM established him as a promising novelist and anticipated some of the themes of his later works, such as racism and sexuality. He became a prominent spokesperson for racial equality, especially during the civil rights movement. He lived in France during his last years. Baldwin died in 1987.
One of the few essential novelists of our time New Statesman A beautiful, enduring, spiritual song of a novel -- Andrew O'Hagan Vivid imagery, with lavish attention to details The New York Times His prose hit me, almost winding me with its intensity. I'd never read a novel that described loneliness and desire with such burning eloquence -- Douglas Field Guardian It broke my heart and made me want to jump up and down... It captures an essential aspect of life in America, its contradictions and seductions, that bittersweet mix of love and hate that so many feel towards the country -- Azar Nafisi Independent
It broke my heart and made me want to jump up and down... It captures an essential aspect of life in America, its contradictions and seductions, that bittersweet mix of love and hate that so many feel towards the country