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If He Hollers Let
Norman Edwin Himes
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If He Hollers Let

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,449 Ratings  ·  134 Reviews
Robert Jones has got a lot going for him - a steady job, a steady relationship and plenty of prospects - until a white woman accuses him of rape and, all of a sudden, his prospects seem a lot less bright.
Published December 1st 1971 by Signet (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.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Richard Derus
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Ralowe Ampu
Aug 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Shelly Leyden
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  ·  review of another edition
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.

Aug 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5...blistering account of endemic racism in the US during the 40s.
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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 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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 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.
Mike Cahoon
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think that the strong social and political message of the novel (If He Hollers would definitely qualify as one of Baldwin's "protest novels") often overshadows just how well constructed and powerfully told this novel is. This is the only novel I've read by Chester Himes and I was amazed that it doesn't seem to share the fame of those written by Wright, Baldwin, and Ellison. It's every bit as effective a piece of art as the novels of those great writers.

If He Hollers Let Him go is a psychologi
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is no such thing as knowing every aspect of racism in America there is to know. In this book I learned that young African American men were forced to join the military rather than face jail time for crimes they did not commit. I would love to know just when humanity will ever infiltrate white society enough to acknowledge the wrongs committed in the name of privilege.
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jay Koester
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jill Marzolino
Jan 30, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Rascism is so alive; it's frustrating and disappointing how recognizable this novel still is.
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