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Go Tell It on the Mountain
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Go Tell It on the Mountain

3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  26,953 Ratings  ·  1,112 Reviews
James Baldwin's stunning first novel is now an American classic. With startling realism that brings Harlem and the black experience vividly to life, this is a work that touches the heart with emotion while it stimulates the mind with its narrative style, symbolism, and excoriating vision of racism in America. Moving through time from the rural South to the northern ghetto, ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 31st 1991 by Penguin Books (first published 1953)
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Jun 23, 2016 Jimmy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel, male, year-1950s, poc
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
“There are people in the world for whom "coming along" is a perpetual process, people who are destined never to arrive.”
― James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain


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 emotiona
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
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
James Baldwin's body of writing and published work includes essays, plays, poetry, and six novels, of which Go Tell It on the Mountain was the first (1953). It is a semi-autobiographical look at life in 1930's Harlem, especially for African-Americans. It focuses on their struggles for equality -economically, socially, and culturally- in this great melting pot of a city where racial prejudice was as much a part of life as it was in the South. Baldwin uses the voice of one of his characters to mak ...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
Parthiban Sekar
Guilt is a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes—accurately or not—that he or she has compromised his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a moral standard and bears significant responsibility for that violation. [Source: Wiki]

Do you know what is stronger that an individual’s guilt? A Collective Guilt… A guilt of many… millions for the sinful committal of shedding the blood of His holiness. Driven by the guilt, people went back to the holy
Jan 11, 2008 Phayvanh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: reviews, fiction
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
Dec 11, 2008 J. Trott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 30, 2015 Sofia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical

There comes a time, when we are young, were we take a look at our parents and decided if our own way forward is going to be like theirs or if we are going to follow our own path. This is John's choosing, the story of where John is coming from and where he wants to go. (view spoiler)
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
Jan 07, 2014 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Nov 12, 2015 Mariel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am almost half-way through this one and want Baldwin to have imagined a woman who didn't wait on the dirty feet of a man (just like he was the gateway to peace, meaning of life, God, and her children's children and their children) so bad I just cannot stand it. I've had this feeling about Baldwin before. I keep reading him because he's one of those voices as if you are living life with someone than just your own voice. It is reassuring and hitting me in my discomfort at the same time (I have t ...more
Nov 21, 2013 Zanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: racism, usa
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 it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 20, 2016 Warda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jan 13, 2016 Holly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vexing, hallucinogenic, confrontational. It's easy to mistake this for a religious novel. God and salvation are only concepts that are a means to an end. When you grow up in the house of the Lord, everything seems to be defined by its proximity to the ideal. But the idea that we are unworthy, sinful, missing a component, is, I think, universal.
She felt that everything in existence between them was a part of a mighty plan for her humiliation.
Every heavy word here is necessary, like a can of fo
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
I gave this book 3.5 stars.

I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would. I liked that Baldwin made his character's accessible to all readers and not just the ones who were going to be reading his book during the time it was published. The concept of being "lost in religion" is highly relevant to many individuals who are raised in religious households and are forced to do battle with their parents' concept of God versus who God eventually will become to them.

However, I did feel like the
Mar 02, 2010 Hazel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
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
Nov 26, 2015 Lynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Full review:

I'm not certain what to think of this book yet. Having no attraction to organized religion of any type at this point in my life, yet having in my early teens been taken in by a charismatic "preacher" and supposedly "saved" in just this same emotionally charged atmosphere (Though much more subdued, thankfully!), I now believe that is a false conviction born of emotional turmoil and fervor created by others. It is obvious to me that John is sca
May 10, 2011 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 05, 2016 Yamini rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
This book is a hit-and-miss for me. I love Baldwin’s writing style and the way he’s ultimately formed this novel. However, the story itself failed to stir any real excitement in me. While I enjoy theological debates in a professional context and am even willing to let go of a few overly religious conversations here and there, this book suffocated me with its obsessive discussions of God and references to the Bible. The first third of the novel I was okay with it, but then my interest continued t ...more
Neal Adolph
Apr 09, 2015 Neal Adolph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 15, 2015 Trudy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
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
Huma Rashid
Mar 22, 2011 Huma Rashid rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
I'm conflicted about my rating. On the one hand, this book is stunningly written. The imagery is amazing. I mean, it's James Baldwin, after all. I fell in love with him after reading "Notes of a Native Son." And his depiction of these deeply flawed but deeply alive characters is ... incredible. There are no words for it. And his method of peeling back the layers of the onion, gradually letting us deeper and deeper inside these people, showing us their motivations and their fears and their pasts ...more
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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...

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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.” 28 likes
“There are people in the world for whom "coming along" is a perpetual process, people who are destined never to arrive.” 25 likes
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