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Go Tell It on the Mountain

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  22,755 ratings  ·  838 reviews
Go Tell It On The Mountain, first published in 1953, is Baldwin's first major work, a semi-autobiographical novel that has established itself as an American classic. With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power, and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy's discovery of the terms of his ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published 2001 by Penguin (first published 1953)
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The Color Purple by Alice WalkerTheir Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale HurstonThe Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm XBeloved by Toni MorrisonInvisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Best African American Books
29th out of 566 books — 687 voters
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Best Books of the Decade: 1950's
59th out of 591 books — 755 voters

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Community Reviews

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Steve Sckenda
“On this threshing floor the child was the soul that struggled to the light, and it was the church that was in labor, that did not cease to push and pull, calling on the name of Jesus....For the rebirth of the soul was perpetual; only rebirth every hour could stay the hand of Satan.” (113)

Fourteen-year old John Grimes belongs to the Temple of the Fire Baptized, a store-front church in Harlem. In “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” published in 1952, James Baldwin tells the story of how a sensitive
When I was vacationing in Chicago recently, I went to a used bookstore and saw some James Baldwin books. I've heard many good things about him, so I decided to get this book... an old paperback edition (not the white one pictured above) for $5.

The next morning, flipping through my stack of newly purchased books, I noticed to my amazement that this book was signed! And signed "For Jimmy". Unbelievable:

('For Jimmy or be that James: Peace, James Baldwin')

So I felt like it was fate that brought this
He gives me music in words, and I fall for each note. When Baldwin juxtaposes hope and despair, he makes me fall in step with his professionally-performed melancholic waltz. Genius he is, with words and emotions and sound and sensibility. With this pocket-sized-book, I read as I walked around a lecture room administering exams, as I waited in my office between appointments, and while I paced a Center, collecting a state-mandatory writing proficiency test. Bind me with Baldwin and watch me smile ...more
Wow, what a read! Where each word feels like brick in the construction of a cathedral, yet still able to ignite your emotions and transport you into the spiritual ether. With rhythms and lyricism like a new Gospel and images and themes of the Old Testament. I was surprised. I knew Baldwin was quite a voice for racist and homophobic oppression, but I didn’t know he was such a bard for the power of Protestant religion in the lives of the downtrodden. I didn’t know until after I read this that he w ...more
This was a slow read. In terms of pages and words it was a small book, but the river was deep and fierce. Baldwin is throwing out big themes on family, religion, race, sex. This isn't a beach read. It is a hard pew read in an unconditioned, hellfire and damnation church. I would read 40 pages and have to take a day to recover emotionally.


THIS book is why I read fiction. Look. I am white on white, again and again. Seriously, I took the DNA spit test and I am pretty deep into the whit
James Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain, an autobiographical novel first published in 1952, is a beautifully written exploration of religious experience in African American life, both North and South. The primary narrative covers less than 24 hours and is focused by the central character's 14th birthday and religious conversion experience. The book is divided into three sections: "The Seventh Day," which focuses on John Grimes, our 14-year-old protagonist, and his decision to turn away from h ...more

Reading this, years ago, I was struck by something I didn't think I'd be struck with.


I was reaised religious, not in anything close to the kind of religiostity he describes- visceral, pummeling, hyperintense- but pretty far-reaching and existential in my own right, if I do say so myself.

Anyway, I was throttled by the sheer force and passion and earnestness of the writing here. I've been on that threshing floor, and even as I feel self-conscious about making that claim, I'm not going
Jan 11, 2008 Phayvanh rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: fiction, reviews
At a time when I was spirialing in self-doubt and slight depression, when I was trying to figure out life and find myself, I found this book while browsing the shelves at the San Frnacisco public librry and lived these lives with such passion and clarity I was brought back into the realm of sensousness and divinity. I read this book and felt saved. Saved from the torture of having to live life alone, from the limp mass-market suspense thrillers that were mere diversions of the soul, saved from m ...more
A great coming-of-age depicting 14 year old John's journey to conversion. The book has a strong Christian setting, with quite a few good sermons and biblical language scattered throughout it. I detested Gabriel, John's father, a hypocritical, womanizing, abusive preacher with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
J. Trott
First, this book feels like an epic and it's only two hundred and fifty pages. Second, it hurts like hell, and this is because it's too real. One line that struck me particularly was when a sister challenges her brother that his faith is fake, since all it ever did was hurt people, which is no change from who he was before conversion. I should have the book to hand and set it down, but maybe you should just read it. The obvious conclusion is that I need to read more Baldwin, but while hhis searc ...more
I'm very impressed with how self-assured and commanding Baldwin's first novel is, especially in its structure, and its gritty and poetic prose.

The author's empathy for his characters, even an extremely hypocritical one, is strong too. The difficulty of the adult characters' pasts was most compelling to me, as they can't help but look backward even as they try to forget. The bitterness of the main character's mother, on a day when she might be happy, is subtle and understandable after you know he
My 1982 Collins English dictionary does not have the word mankey. Nor does the Macquarie Dictionary. James Baldwin describes Florence's fur coat as mankey. Baldwin wrote "Go Tell it on the Mountain" in 1954, it was set in the 1930's in Harlem. Did they use the word back then? Did Baldwin time travel to now to use Urban Dictionary? It struck me as ODD and out of place.
1.The name of a white furry Pokemon with a snout.
I tried to capture a Mankey in my Pokeball, but it escaped!
2.A word used
Barry Pierce
I feel this one just wasn't for me. I didn't engage with this novel at all. I must say that it is written very well (obviously, it's Baldwin) but the overall story and characters didn't do much for me. I'm kinda disappointed tbh, this is Baldwin's most popular novel according to Goodreads but I personally think that Giovanni's Room blows this one out of the water.
Rereading for the LFPC group. Last read this ages ago, perhaps in my teens or early twenties. I had completely forgotten what a powerful piece of writing this is. I think I was too young to truly appreciate it.

Today I am struck by the rhythms of Baldwin's prose, the harrowing picture he paints of the individual psyche, the family dynamic and the society, all twisted by racism. I recognise the place of theology for a people making sense of the world as they find it, and of particular religious p
When I first read this book I was quite mystified by it, because I'm a very convergent thinker. It's only in maturity that I've begun, little by little & with much help from literature, to understand that people think differently from each other, contradict themselves and change their minds, and writers are able to create characters that are neither good nor evil and narratives that don't actually loud-speaker their own personal ideology. I don't have much hope for myself as a writer, but I' ...more
Nov 27, 2007 Bookchica rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in african-american literature, american classics
Go Tell It On The Mountain is a very bold book. In an era when "Ebonics" had not been coined yet, when being black was not every white kids style, James Baldwin stayed so true to the African-American colloquialism. James Baldwin has written with complete truthfulness and self-questioning this parable of finding yourself, finding your belief, finding your God. Are these even different things, or is it one? It is this honesty which keeps you engrossed. Whether you'll end up loving this book or not ...more
Scott Rhee
James Baldwin’s first novel “Go Tell It on the Mountain” was first published in 1953. It received critical acclaim and is considered by many literary critics to be one of the most important novels of the 20th century. It also helped to establish Baldwin as one of the premier black literary voices of his time.

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never read Baldwin prior to this. I’m also ashamed to say that my knowledge and experience of black literature in general is woefully lacking. I plan to correct
Neal Adolph
James Baldwin writes beautifully. I could almost stop the reflection of this great work here, and it is worth repeating.

James Baldwin writes beautifully.

But he does a great deal more than just this.

Because he also writes quite ordinarily. More often than not there is no great impression in his sentences or his paragraphs and, though his dialogue is rich and bounces, it is not striking in and of itself. No, Baldwin is a better writer than that. While every sentence must be pristine to the readin
First things first: Baldwin can write his ass off; he just has a way with words that are imperceptibly profound and flow beautifully. This is a deeply religious novel and while I tend to me ambivalent towards such subject matter, I found myself challenged and also captivated by the influence Christianity has on the lives of these characters and the complex way religion drives the story about the Grimes family as each member struggles with their faith in seeking salvation. An engrossing coming-of ...more
El Habib Louai
I read this fabulous emotion-filled novel in my last year of the university when I was getting ready for a master's degree in Race,Alterity and Post-colonial discourse. I loved it so much and I was amazed essentially by its sincere description of internal black American feelings towards the growing power of a fake religious father.I loved this novel for its uneasiness while it develops with the sentimentality of the protagonist as he was contrasted to his brother.
OMG! How can I even begin to review this work in an acceptable manner? To begin, let me confess this is not my first experience with this book. I read it when I was in my twenties (a long time ago, lol). However the experiences, then and now, were completely different. Then, it was the trendy book that everyone in my crowd was reading. Reading this book now touched my very heart and soul. I needed to have a grown up's understanding of love, passion, despair, triumph, hope, failure and redemption ...more
leslie nikole
Read the book more than ten times, had to buy it after the library told me I couldn't take it out anymore. Absolutely loved it.
This is one of those experiences I'll have to digest, so I won't write my thoughts now other than to acknowledge the quality of the story. I have to look at why I don't like evangelizing, sermonizing, preaching or too much religion in Literature or any fiction. I also have to examine why I dislike the use of too many rhetorical questions, especially religious rhetorical questions in this book.
I tend to get confused with a story jumping back and forth between generations, trying to keep track of
Colin Hogan
I was disappointed with this book. When I first started reading it, there was something queer about the main character John. That got me interested. He didn't fit in with his family or his community, and in his wandering around the city, I thought he was going to cast out on his own, building some kind of new existence.

That didn't happen, and maybe I was a bit naive in wanting it. After finishing, I thought about the open environments for a black man in this time period, and obviously, there we
This book was full of preaching, going on and one about sin, and more preaching. The common stereotypes about guilt are Catholic guilt and Jewish guilt. Well African American Baptist, Methodist, Pentacostal etc. guilt tops it all if this book is any indication. This may be a book of a certain time and place, but I found it hard to get through.
Go Tell It on the Mountain is the first major release by James Baldwin and is a semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in Harlem. James Baldwin never knew his biological father and his stepfather was a strict Baptist minister. Go Tell It on the Mountain mainly follows the character John Grimes (who is the autobiographical character in the novel) but really shifts focus to other characters, to allow the exploration of John’s immediate family.

It took James Baldwin ten years to write Go Tell
Jennifer Spiegel
I know it’s crazy, but I’m too emotionally attached to tell you exactly how I feel about this book. I will say this: I’m pretty sure it’ll be the best book I’ll read this year. I’ve read it before, but it was when I was young and dumb—and, no doubt, one-dimensional in my reading. I’m sure that my White Kid with Big Ideas and Bookish Instincts allowed me to see that the book was well-written (Are You Going To Deny That? You Are Not) and that it was about, in part, racism. Enough said.

So I just re
If you are religious, or ever have been, read this book. It’s the story of a pentecostal family and their relationship with our good friend Human Nature. The conflict between onset righteousness brought on by experiences of religious euphoria and our tendency to act on our base desires is richly and fairly represented on both sides of the spectrum. The fluid way the story spans places and generations and the biblical rhythm it’s in told in draws you in and holds your attention. It is layered eno ...more
I don't know how authentic the setting and the language is in the book, as I have no knowledge of that culture, but reading this book was a very different and interesting experience. Some parts of it were trying. Not because they were boring, but because of the unfamiliar content. it is difficult to completely grasp the characters.

The characters' interactions with the Church and its ways have been narrated splendidly. A nice read for anyone who likes characters more than plot.
أحمد أبازيد Ahmad Abazed
عن الجنس و العنصريّة و الدين , في مزيج من حياة بالدوين نفسه و من معاناة الأمريكان السود و تقاليد الكنيسة , و شخصيّات يتصارعها الخطيئة و الطهارة , و إن كانت في صراعاتها مستغرقةً في الوحل , و معظم الرواية ذكريات أمام مذبح الكنيسة , و تحت وقع الترانيم
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

James Arthur Baldwin was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic.

James Baldwin offered a vital literary voice during the era of civil rights activism in the 1950s and '60s. The eldest of nine children, his stepfather was a minister. At age 14, Bal
More about James Baldwin...
Giovanni's Room The Fire Next Time Notes of a Native Son Another Country If Beale Street Could Talk

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“But to look back from the stony plain along the road which led one to that place is not at all the same thing as walking on the road; the perspective to say the very least, changes only with the journey; only when the road has, all abruptly and treacherously, and with an absoluteness that permits no argument, turned or dropped or risen is one able to see all that one could not have seen from any other place.” 22 likes
“There are people in the world for whom "coming along" is a perpetual process, people who are destined never to arrive.” 16 likes
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