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Go Tell It on the Mountain

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  51,525 ratings  ·  2,871 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
Mass Market Paperback, 221 pages
Published 1968 by Dell Publishing Co., Inc. (first published May 18th 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)
Robert Irish I'm not sure how this book has much to offer with the racial tension in America. Certainly, it speaks of the African American distrust of the White, a…moreI'm not sure how this book has much to offer with the racial tension in America. Certainly, it speaks of the African American distrust of the White, and justifies it pretty well, but that's not what's central here. The central them focuses on the internal workings of the Black community in its relationship to faith in God and each other. (less)
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Aug 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, recs
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
3 to 3.5

Go Tell It on the Mountain is a very powerful book and I can tell why it is on many must read lists. Overall the way it was written was easy to get into and the journey into each specific character was interesting. The focus of the plot is religion and the hypocrisies around it that the author had experienced in his life. So, know that fact going in if you prefer to avoid mixing religious commentary into your reading.

With the paragraph above you may wonder why I didn’t rate this higher.
Ahmad Sharabiani
Go Tell It On The Mountain, James Baldwin

Go Tell It on the Mountain is a 1953 semi-autobiographical novel by James Baldwin. It tells the story of John Grimes, an intelligent teenager in 1930's Harlem, and his relationship to his family and his church. The novel also reveals the back stories of John's mother, his biological father, and his violent, religious fanatic stepfather, Gabriel Grimes.

Go Tell It On The Mountain, is Baldwin's first major work, a semi-autobiographical novel that has establi
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
Aug 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 tha
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
I think one of the things that makes me the angriest about a lot of organized religions is the systematic shaming and regulating of sexuality. Few things strike me as more abhorrent than controlling people by threatening and terrorizing them with divine punishment. Given the primal function sex serves in humans, being able to control it with the threat of damnation if one doesn’t respect the arbitrarily imposed limits, this is a tremendous power that religious leaders have hoarded sadistically f ...more
Jr Bacdayan
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
I've been intending to read a James Baldwin novel for awhile and since June is Pride month, and Baldwin was gay, I thought a book by him was perfect for my classic of the month.

This man could WRITE! He was a genius when it came to metaphor and character development. His understanding of the human psyche was superb. There are so many layers of meaning to this novel that only a genius could have written it. It is the story of John, a 14 year old African American teen growing up in Harlem with his
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 Bal
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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... ...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
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
Raul Bimenyimana
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
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.
Apr 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-read, usa
"There was not, after all, a great difference between the world of the North and that of the South which she had fled; there was only this difference: the North promised more. And this similarity: what it promised it did not give, and what it gave, at length and grudgingly with one hand, it took back with the other."

In this semi-autobiographical novel, Baldwin talks about the life of Black families in the US between ca. 1910-1935, with Jim Crow in the South and different means of oppression in
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
Michael Finocchiaro
This is a beautiful, if painful, first novel from the very gifted James Baldwin about growing up black in a preacher's family. The language is poetic and captures the music and passion of the book's protagonists. Mostly autobiographical, this book put Baldwin on the US map in terms of hugely important writers. In it, you get a glimpse of how visceral and quotidienne that religion tended to be in the black experience before WWII. A must read.
This book will be the subject of a face to face book club discussion at my local independent bookshop Five Leaves later this month, and I am looking forward to the discussion.

I had never read any Baldwin before, and for most of the first part, in which the main characters are introduced, I was wondering what I had let myself in for, partly because I have never been a believer in any form of religion, and I have never faced any family pressure to change that, nor have I lived anywhere like the p
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, overdrive
I don't know why I hadn't read James Baldwin before, but this year I am trying to rectify that lapse. This is a brilliant, character-driven book, with beautiful use of language. A large part of the book is the coming of age of 14 year old John, who is a surrogate for the author. Although I am not at all religious, I was pulled in by how the family members depicted in this book relied upon and wrestled with their faith in the light of painful experiences, including racism, death, hypocrisy, aband ...more
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
Short book, only 250 pages or so but with brilliant, thick and heavy prose. It's a powerful and a despairful delivery on race, faith and sexuality. Where is the solace, end to subjection when you are ensconced in oppression and pray to an indifferent God? There is no salvation, other than prescribed by the church, you are left wearing a chrisom of melancholy and an impassable pathway to the mountain top.
Rebecca McNutt
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.
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.
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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 minister. At age

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