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If He Hollers Let Him Go

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,910 ratings  ·  187 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, 203 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.…moreJust 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.(less)

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Average rating 3.98  · 
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 ·  1,910 ratings  ·  187 reviews

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Dec 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-favorites
Racism is a Horror Story.

Always has been.

Always will be.

Not only is it a horror story, because of The car wreck effect is has. The effect when you say a car fucked up on the side of the road so you slow down. Causing the traffic that we all hated prior to quarantine.

It's also a Horror Story because it is entertaining. At least the publishers think so. Look at the amount of books available that touch on the topic. In various ways, shapes and forms. Being something important to discuss couldn't be
Richard Derus
May 10, 2017 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 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
Bill Lynas
The first novel from Chester Himes has some good characters & sharp dialogue, but for me it doesn't come up to the standard of his later work. It still packs a punch & has plenty to say about racism, while the author's style is sometimes as aggressive as his characters. However, it isn't in the same league as some of his other novels like The Real Cool Killers or Cotton Comes To Harlem which can easily be read more than once.
Nancy Oakes
Jan 16, 2009 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 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. ...more
Jul 19, 2009 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
Shelly L
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 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.

Apr 14, 2009 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
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is gutwrenching, and accurately describes the complexity of Blackness, anti-Blackness, and white privilege. Broke my heart into a million pieces reading the raw truth of what we as Black people face... even in 2018.
Daniel Polansky
A black worker in a naval plant in WWII-era Los Angeles is brutalized and driven insane by American racial politics. The prose is strong, though not as strong as it would get in his later books, and he still has the sharp eye for injustice and hypocrisy, as he demonstrates throughout the Harlem detective series, but the plot, such as it is, is kind of….loose? Predictable? Ultimately I think his ‘genre’ stuff is stronger, not so much because of the genre angles specifically but more because of th ...more
Carol Douglas
Aug 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Somehow I managed not to know about Chester Himes until recently, when Isabel Wilkerson recommended this book in an article in The New York Times Book Review. Himes is a classic writer on a par with Richard Wright. But Bob Jones, the protagonist, is nothing like Bigger Thomas.

Bob works as a supervisor in a shipyard near Los Angeles during World War II. He has to contend with racism. He also has difficulty with Alice, the woman he's in love with, a member of the African-American elite who keeps a
Aug 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
3.5...blistering account of endemic racism in the US during the 40s.
Alex (Iseultslibrary)
3.5 stars
Mar 10, 2017 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. ...more
Aug 14, 2013 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 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 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 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
Nov 12, 2007 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 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 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 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 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
Jesse Wiedel
May 14, 2015 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
Oct 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 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.
Feb 07, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I read this, my undergraduate psych classes kept coming to mind: the Freudian theory behind the id, superego, and ego, specifically.

I won't spend too much time on that but, basically, in Freud's theory, the id operates on instinct (with zero regard for consequences), the superego is the moral compass (the means by which we determine right and wrong), and the ego is the realist in us--acting as the moderator between impulse and passivity.

With that in mind, imagine a man, attempting to survive
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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,

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