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.
Introduction by Edwidge Danticat
About the Author
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 influential figure in the growing civil rights movement. Baldwin spent much of his life in France, where he moved to escape the racism and homophobia of the United States. He died in France in 1987, a year after being made a Commander of the French Legion of Honor.
EDWIDGE DANTICAT is the author of numerous books, including Claire of the Sea Light, a New York Times notable book; Brother, I'm Dying, a National Book Critics Circle Award winner and National Book Award finalist; Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection; Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist; The Farming of Bones, an American Book Award winner; and The Dew Breaker, a PEN/Faulkner Award finalist and winner of the inaugural Story Prize. The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, she has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and elsewhere. She lives in Miami.
“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