Monday, July 19, 2010

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin ****

I found a flier at the library that listed all the "classic" literature they have on their shelves. I perused the list and decided to read the first one I could find on the shelves that I hadn't read before. Go Tell It on the Mountain was totally new to me, and reading this story of how the sins of our fathers quite literally can shape our own unwitting lives was fascinating.

John, the main character, cannot figure out why his father hates him so. He is obedient, helpful, and the apple of his mother's eye. But his father favors his brother Roy, despite Roy's wild ways. In the 1930's, at a store front church service on a Saturday night in Harlem, we get to see the prayers of all the elders in John's life--his aunt, his mother, and the man he calls his father. The truth of who he is and how the circumstances of his life--including being a young black man--will shape his future we, as readers, must guess at. But at the end of the night, when John is saved, we are left with the hope that he can rise above his father's hypocrisy.

The separate stories of the adults in the book and how they came together to make a whole picture was great. I got lost on the imagery of John's "possession" by the Holy Spirit and didn't get much out of that, but I did like the sense of hope we are left with in the end. Despite being black in America in the 1930's, I really got the feeling that John was going to be able to somehow rise above what was expected of him.

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