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Go Tell It on the Mountain

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  37,465 ratings  ·  2,025 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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Nathan Sinclair My interpretation was that he was so traumatized by the experience, and vividly aware that he'd have to spend the rest of his life being treated this…moreMy interpretation was that he was so traumatized by the experience, and vividly aware that he'd have to spend the rest of his life being treated this way, that he decided he'd rather be dead than live that kind of life. He'd also spent his life trying to make himself smart because he believed it would protect him from the abuse of white people, but when it came down to it, he was still treated just the same.(less)

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4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  37,465 ratings  ·  2,025 reviews

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Aug 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: male, novel, 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
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Religion, Race, Gender, Sexuality! That is a powerful, strong cocktail mix of a story for sure, sung as a mourning prayer or a long orgasmic sensation.

In the character of Gabriel, all that is abusive, hypocritical and evil in Christianity is united in one patriarchal god-copy. He ranges with the worst priests in Dostoevsky's dark universe of punishment and suffering, he resembles the preacher in Elmer Gantry's style who scares his family and congregation with his vivid descriptions of sin leadi
Elyse Walters
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's John's 14th birthday....his family would forget without his mentioning it. It's a
Sunday. Every Sunday the Grimes family walks to church where his father is deacon. It's not the biggest or largest church, but John was brought up to believe it was the holiest and best.
"Everyone had always said John would be a preacher when he grew up, just like his father"......[the abusive preacher 'stepfather' we soon learn].

It's New York during the depression for this African American family. We see how
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, favorites
A coming-of-age tale about race, religion, and endurance, Go Tell It on the Mountain sketches a nuanced portrait of a single Black family struggling to survive in Harlem. John is the fourteen-year-old queer stepson of a self-righteous minister. Friendless and strange looking, the boy wants nothing more than to escape his neighborhood and attain prestige; adding to his troubles is the fact that his family’s forgotten his birthday, distracted by their daily toil. The first and last part of the nov ...more
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
Jail or Church?

At age 14 I had a similar epiphany to that of James Baldwin. I too realised that my parents were only human beings, and that their fallibility left me vulnerable to the world. If I were to survive, it would have to be on terms that were yet to be determined. I recall it as a trauma. And I was neither gay nor black. But I was brought up as well in New York City to know that the world was sinful and dangerous. And “jails and churches” did bound the same spectrum of choice in my adol
Aug 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
More mystical & readable than the other biggie of Harlem literature, "Invisible Man", the tale told here is like a prism that breaks up into different lights, different lives filled to the brim with hardship. The Grimes family is led by the patriarch who is a fanatic. Members of the family struggle to find their own religion by their own means. The father is the bad guy because he's so blinded by his devotion that nothing else even comes second.

There are brief glimpses into the racial issues
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
O'er Tympany and Trumpets

Published in 1953, James Baldwin's first major work was this scorching autobiographical novel of his salvific struggles as a teen in 1930s Harlem. He said this "is the book I had to write if I was ever going to write anything else." The novel centers on a 14-year-old John and Gabriel, his evangelical step-father, whose reserved demeanor as a storefront preacher belies his domineering and physically abusive ways. John fights against this pietistic tyrant and his world, on
Jr Bacdayan
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
There will come a point in a young person’s life when he will have to come face to face with the reality that his faith and his fascination with the world are clashing against each other and vying for the soul he so cherishes. The faith, the church, the temple, the mosque, the synagogue, they deny the world and wash themselves of anything in it that might stain the purity of their holy robes. The world, in turn, enchants and invalidates the faith till the faith is extinguished and the world is a ...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
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african-american
This novel is partially autobiographical and tells the story of a day in the life of 14 year old John Grimes and his preacher stepfather (Gabriel), his mother and his aunt with plenty of flashbacks to build the scene. It is centred on the life of the Pentecostal Church and its role in the African-American community. Baldwin was also the son of a preacher and this is written with great passion and eloquence. The backdrop is late 1930s Harlem; but we are taken back to the South for Gabriel’s compl ...more
da AL
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolute genius epic sage of a black family 1900-1950 about how good & bad vie within each of us, secular & religious alike. Intelligent, compassionate, & bold. Writing is amazing. Audiobook narrator does it wonderful justice...
Sidharth Vardhan

“Ah, that son of Noah’s had been cursed, down to the present groaning generation: A servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
Then the ironic voice, terrified, it seemed, of no depth, no darkness, demanded of John, scornfully, if he believed that he was cursed. All niggers had been cursed, the ironic voice reminded him, all niggers had come from this most undutiful of Noah’s sons."

Chinua Achebe in his postscript to his collection of essays, ‘Hopes and Impediments’, says of James Baldw
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
Raul Bimenyimana
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Like the previous Baldwin books I've read, this book is charged with a deep sense of longing and discovery. At the centre of the story is John, an awkward fourteen year old African American boy who grapples with the uncertainty of his place in the world.

Set in the first half of the 20th century, mostly in New York and with parts in America's South, Baldwin narrates with great eloquence of the struggle of life and the role of Faith in it.

I believe great books, like this one, disrobe us, in the w
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
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.
Jan 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Rebecca McNutt
Oct 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Go Tell It on the Mountain is such a powerful classic, a story of a boy trying to find his place in the world but unsure what that place is.
Parthiban Sekar
Jun 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ich hatte ein wenig Bammel vor diesem Buch, weil ich wusste, dass Religion eine große Rolle spielt. Ich habe mich aber auch sehr auf die Lektüre gefreut, wusste ich doch, nachdem ich den Film „I am not your Negro“ gesehen habe, dass es eine Begegnung mit einem großen Schriftsteller wird.

Der Zeitpunkt dieser Gruppenlektüre schien zunächst schlecht gewählt, denn ich habe gerade begonnen, mich durch Romane über Irland und Dublin zu graben. Wie der Zufall es will, kam es zu einer seltsamen Verknüpfu
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.
Jun 03, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Im deutschen Feuilleton wurde die Neuauflage von James Baldwins autobiografisch beeinflusstem Roman mit Begeisterung aufgenommen. Vor allem die Sprache wird lobend erwähnt: "eine Prosa von buchstäblich biblischer Wucht", "ein großes Klagelied von apokalyptischer Sprachgewalt", "Meisterschaft der sprachlichen Gestaltung" usw. war da zu lesen. Das mag tatsächlich zutreffend sein und ich möchte das gar nicht in Abrede stellen. Dennoch ist es gerade die religiös gefärbte Sprache, die mir den Roman a ...more
J. Trott
Jan 09, 2008 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
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english-read
Do you know that? A book is excellently written, but the story is frightening, it pushes you off and in the end you don’t know, if you should judge the book by the literary value or by the degree of reading pleasure, somehow both are diametrically opposed.

The book is very well written and the structure, almost like a liturgy: entry in the church, reading, singing, prayers, sin confession, preaching. I liked that. Nevertheless, these "I will beat the sin out of you" passages were just awful in t
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
It's been 70 years since the mighty James Baldwin published this, his first and most autobiographical novel, and its audacity is still shocking. Baldwin sets himself here to wrestle with God Himself, to come to terms with God as a black man and as a guy who also sortof wants to wrestle shirtless with his fellow youth pastor. He will win, becoming a successful Pentecostal Minister while still in his teens and then abandoning God altogether when he's just 17. This book doesn't cover that part, tho ...more
Jacob Appel
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 21, 2011 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
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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. He was the eldest of nine children; his stepfather was a mini
“There are people in the world for whom "coming along" is a perpetual process, people who are destined never to arrive.” 53 likes
“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.” 39 likes
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