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If He Hollers Let Him Go
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If He Hollers Let Him Go

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  1,419 Ratings  ·  128 Reviews
This story of a man living every day in fear of his life for simply being black is as powerful today as it was when it was first published in 1947. The novel takes place in the space of four days in the life of Bob Jones, a black man who is constantly plagued by the effects of racism. Living in a society that is drenched in race consciousness has no doubt taken a toll on t ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 3rd 2002 by Da Capo Press (first published 1945)
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Collin Doerr-Newton Just did a quick flip through the book looking for profanity, and all that I could pick out was "nigger"... and there is a whole lot of that.

Community Reviews

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Richard Derus
May 10, 2017 Richard Derus rated it really liked it
Rating: 4.5* of five

Many long years ago, this book and I crossed paths while I was working at Thunder's Mouth Press. I was gobsmacked by the rawness of Bob Jones's hate and fury. I would never have imagined the horrors of racism and the vileness of color prejudice among African Americans NOT inducing hatred and rage, but Himes was such an amazing writer that I experienced Bob Jones's feelings as deeply as my own.

I can't think of a reason that you wouldn't already have read this book, but if for
Mar 26, 2010 Brian rated it it was amazing
An absolutely amazing book written not only by one of the best African American writers, but one of the best writers of the 20th century, who had to move to Europe since there was no place in the America of the 50s and 60s for a black man to be a creative and successful writer expressing the reality of being a person of color in this country. While he made his living writing noir novels based on 2 great characters, Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones, both black NYC detectives based in Harle ...more
Nancy Oakes
Jan 16, 2009 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it
The setting of this novel is Los Angeles during World War II. The main character, Bob Jones, is an African-American man, who gets a job at a defense shipyard there, and is the narrator of this story. Bob is, in fact, the supervisor of a small crew of other African-Americans. The action takes place just after the forced internment of Japanese-Americans in California, which kind of sets the stage for how Bob sees himself as a black man in white Los Angeles. He's also in a situation where, because ...more
Aug 16, 2014 Andy rated it really liked it
World War II-era novel about a man fighting his own personal war against racism and hometown sellouts. Although it would be years before Himes would begin writing crime fiction, the writing style in If He Hollers is distinctly hard-boiled, slash and burn, in other words, NOIR. Patricia Highsmith was a fan, and I can't think of no higher endorsement of Himes' great works.
Ralowe Ampu
Aug 13, 2013 Ralowe Ampu rated it it was amazing
another crazy-making cover. self-conscious people think i'm desperate for a white lover. well, it's too late. and the cover is provocative to those familiar with the novel already or are currently exposing themselves to the main character's obsessive thoughts about murdering white people. i would laugh outloud a lot. and then feel ashamed that murder is continually a part of my psyche. is desensitization a myth? is there no other way to sensitive to intimations of justice in the ongoing historic ...more
Shelly Leyden
Jan 21, 2015 Shelly Leyden rated it it was amazing
Snow wasn't the only blanket of whiteness in the Minnesota of my childhood. Growing up, I didn't grasp the history of, present reality of, or pervasive machinery of racism. Did not get it at all. I mean, I was watching Sesame Street, reading Dr. Seuss, and listening to Free to Be You and Me. Everything was coolio. When shown A Class Divided in elementary school, I marvelled at how people could look down on other people just for the way they look. Ridiculous! With every episode of Star Trek, I fe ...more
Sep 24, 2012 April rated it it was amazing
A racially charged story. It is intense, powerful, and painful to read. I do not recommend reading it if you want a feel good book. This will leave you feeling as though the life has been sucked out of you. It deals primarily with the day to day issues of a young black man (Bob Jones) in Los Angeles during WWII. It spans 4 days in his life in which he is confronted with inequality left and right, on the job, during his drive to work, at the movies, at dinner - anywhere and everywhere he turns.

Mar 10, 2017 Dani rated it it was amazing
I testament to the dangerous existence of white women in the world of black men. A pure horror story that's as relentless as it is brilliant. You should read this.
Aug 14, 2013 James added it
Q: Who's more racist, black people or white people?
A: Black people, because black people hate black people, too.

40's era racism sounds like a bummer. Johnson says he feels white while terrorizing a (white) man who mugged him, i.e. he understands suddenly the feeling of power, control, and safety that white people enjoy all the time. You shouldn't threaten to kill people, but it's not hard to justify his actions given that the white dude robbed him because he knew he could get away with it, and i
Thanh Ha
Jan 07, 2016 Thanh Ha rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

This book is so emotionally densed. It had me on my edge from start to finish. The night I finished the book, I had a dream of being trapped in a pitch-black house of hundreds of room where enemies came from every sides. That was how I felt reading this novel.

This isn’t the kind of book that will provide you with a wonderfully groundbreaking argument on institutional racism and oppression. Many times when I thought Himes was going to let his characters talk it out, the conversation wa
Sep 06, 2012 Zack added it
this is the story of an african american man who lives in LA in the late forties. he is very intelligent but very angry because he constantly experiences racism and hatred because of his skin color. he looses his job because a woman calls him a "nigger" and then he reacts and calls her a "cracker slut." then eeeeeeverything starts going down hill.

o my gooooooooooooooooood. this is such a powerful book. extremely interesting and intensely sad. like my body hurt as i finished it. but it also felt
Sarah Zama
Feb 13, 2014 Sarah Zama rated it it was amazing
This is the account of four life-changing days in the life of Robert Jones, a black leaderman of a black crew in a Californian shipyard during WWII. Bob is a fiery man who knows his own worth and tries to assert it in the white world he lives in, even with all the restrictions he knows he have to take into account. But there are things he's not willing to take, and he won't take. And when one of these happens and he is suspended from work because he stood his ground, his entire life is shaken to ...more
Apr 14, 2009 Terence rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anybody who asked
A very powerful book, probably the closest thing in print a white man can come to experiencing what it's like to live in a world where no matter what you do you're always a "boy" - a second-class citizen. I particularly liked Himes' ability to look at the many ways African-Americans cope with that status.

I think it's better today than when this book first appeared in 1945 but then I read about a private swimming pool that barred a bunch of black children from swimming there (after they had joine
Nov 12, 2007 jo rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lovers of L.A. lit, african american lit., and walter mosley
i am not sure how many people would find this fun to read, but it's such a literary feat, it seems to me an essential chapter in african american literature. first of all, it *is* fun to read: it's fast-paced, gritty, fabulously political, witty, sharp, and strikingly contemporary. but i imagine college students reading it (since i plan to teach it, this particular audience knocks on my attention's doors again and again) and, in my mind, i hear them complaining about the narrator's rantish rage, ...more
Mar 19, 2007 Professor rated it really liked it
Shelves: virtual-catalog

At this point I've read quite a few novels by Chester Himes, but all of them have been from his series of crime novels starring Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones, two tough, no-nonsense cops who have to navigate the insane Harlem Himes creates while simultaneously dealing with institutional racism. If He Hollers Let Him Go, however, is not set in a surreal world but instead in the reality of war time Los Angeles. The main character, Bob Johnson, is a "leaderman" at a shipyard and dating A
Tunde Oyebode
Dec 27, 2016 Tunde Oyebode rated it it was amazing
Pay no attention to the synopsis at the back of the book, It is very misleading. After reading the summary I was under the impression that the book will primarily contain some sort of judicial battle between black and white, something akin to 'to kill a mocking bird.' It wasn't the case.

Instead the book, about 90% of it, contained the thoughts and endeavours of a somewhat successful black man who experiences racism daily and is plagued by a rage to do something about it. What makes things so mu
Prooost Davis
Mar 22, 2011 Prooost Davis rated it it was amazing
It took me a few pages to decide that this novel had something new to tell me. But it proved to be a moving account of the plight of blacks during the 1940s war years.

Bob Jones is a shipyard worker in Los Angeles, and has been given the post of "leaderman" over a crew of workers (and, therefore, a draft deferment). But he finds that his position gives him no real power, and that subordinate whites are able to ignore him with impunity. Bob's desire for a true manhood makes him chafe against the r
Jan 06, 2013 Eva rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure how to rate this book. It's well written and offers an intriguing look into racism ca. WWII, as well as how it can vary by class and geography.

It was also a bit uncomfortable to read, since the main character is an angry "negro" man who is furious about how the world treats him and wants to respond with violence--not exactly uplifting, positive propaganda.

Two quotes, to give you an idea:

I thought if they really wanted to give him [the baby] a break they'd cut his throat and bury h
I've rarely been so grateful to arrive at the end of a book - not for lack of literary merit, but because the portrayal of one man's struggle to maintain his sense of dignity and self-worth in the face of constant racism is so painful. So it wasn't enjoyable, but that doesn't mean it wasn't good. From a historical point of view, this book reminded me of "The Warmth of Other Suns" (highly recommended, btw) which gives the context of black folks migrating out of the South and into the North and We ...more
Jul 19, 2009 Babydoll rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a must-read for those who are literary fans of classic African American literature. Published in 1945, Chester Himes does a marvelous job capturing the vivid character Bob Jones, who endures racism while living in California, discrimination on his job, and color complexes among his Black American friends. The main character, Jones, resembles the character Bigger Thomas from Richard Wright's great novel 'Native Son', in that they both deal with the infectious disease of social racism ...more
Jesse Wiedel
May 14, 2015 Jesse Wiedel rated it it was amazing
This was a terrific book! Starting this book, I felt I was in for a pummeling about racism and not much else, but the book was written with such fierce satire and wit that I took a lot of pleasure reading it. It was good to read someone not dancing around the issue of racism in the '40's. The style of writing reminded me of Jim Thompson, and even Dostoyevsky in sections, the way he delves deep into the weirdness of the subject's psyche. I loved how he would begin a lot of chapters by recounting ...more
Marcus Immanuel
a freudian/lacanian retelling Native Son by Richard Wright. novel of IMPOTENCE AND FAILURE. amazingly written. it is the life of a black Josef K. in mid-century Los Angeles.
Nov 07, 2014 Kit rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recentlyread
A few scenes were a little speechy but overall this is an amazing novel.
Jul 16, 2017 Mary rated it it was amazing
A really rough book to read, written and published in the early 40's, this story of a man living every day in fear of his life for simply being black. We only see four days in the life of Bob Jones but the complete oppressiveness of racism in his daily life is powerful.
Jill Marzolino
Jan 30, 2017 Jill Marzolino rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
Rascism is so alive; it's frustrating and disappointing how recognizable this novel still is.
Steve Carter
Jan 13, 2016 Steve Carter rated it liked it
If He Hollers Let Him Go
A novel by Chester Hines

This is a novel about black/white race relations in the 1940s.
Bob Jones tells us his story in first person. He works in a shipyard building the war machine to fight fascism while he fights racism, not at all successfully, on the job.
The city is Los Angeles. Hines does well I mixing it up in the shipyard. There are all kinds of people attracted to the well paying jobs. Not ALL KINDS of people, only the varieties available for this kind of work. Sinc
Dec 25, 2016 Lucas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't help thinking of Franz Kafka this morning, now that I've finished Chester Himes's 1945 novel, and all the times I thought The Trial so perfectly captured the angst and desperation of being trapped in a society hostile to your existence. If He Hollers Let Him Go brings that focus to modern America and concentrates on the racism that has destroyed the lives of so many black men and women. The story takes place in Los Angeles during the second World War, but it feels like it could take plac ...more
Feb 22, 2017 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-not-read-yet
An outraged roar at race relations in the U. S. during WWII. Addresses the perniciousness of racism that sets a tone that can even dictate the way some blacks aspiring to a good life come to think of themselves and the limits of possibility. Ultimately pessimistic, the protagonist will not "go gentle into that good night". Grim.
Apr 05, 2011 Gregory rated it really liked it
This novel follows Bob Jones, a migrant worker who goes the distance to find a livelihood in the San Pedro shipyards in the heat of WWII Los Angeles. He finds that his identity as an African American is out of his hands and the hostility he feels toward and from the Caucasians bleeds from his nightmares into reality.. This is a portrayal of one man's attempt to take charge of his own life in a society that he feels silences him because his speaking out to the greater issues in his position may j ...more
Jul 15, 2013 Christopher rated it it was amazing
The story of malcontent Robert Johnson; a malcontent because he's cursed with being an African-American man in WWII America when being black was a de facto crime even though the American mythos (land of the free home of the brave; all men are created equal; you can control your own destiny) says otherwise, but in his heart and soul he knows it isn't applicable to him.

Himes creates a sad and chilling and all-too-real tale of a shipworker from Cleveland who is trying to better his life and runs a
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Chester Bomar Himes began writing in the early 1930s while serving a prison sentence for armed robbery. From there, he produced short stories for periodicals such as Esquire and Abbott's Monthly. When released, he focussed on semi-autobiographical protest novels.

In 1953, Himes emigrated to France, where he was approached by Marcel Duhamel of Gallimard to write a detective series for Série Noire,
More about Chester Himes...

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