* Prices may differ from that shown
Author: James Baldwin was an American novelist and civil rights activist. This particular novel is autobiographical, originally published in 1953.
Plot: This is the story of John Grimes, who is trying desperately to live up to the reputation of following in his father's footsteps as an inspirational religious preacher. At the beginning, John hates his father, and is keen to run away, but the novel ultimately leads to John's eventual spiritual fit and conversion. The book examines the impact of the Christian church and racism in 1930s America.
I read this book as part of a Banned Books Challenge, sponsored by the Pelham Library, and, to be honest, I can't for the life of me understand why this book would ever be banned (too much religion maybe? A bad reflection on the way 1930s America dealt with racism? Who knows?). Anyway, this book was very readable, a lovely story. The book was structured with John's story in the first and last chapters, with the intermediate chapters detailing the background of John's parents and how they had both fallen from grace in the past. This helps the reader to understand that nobody is perfect and, despite the harsh disciplinarian nature of John's father at the beginning, there is hope for John too.
The final climax of John's conversion, is very intense and emotive, and really brings home the whole inner experience that he is going through. While this book does have some longer descriptive passages, they are not too tedious, as the reader does want to find out what happens. I would thoroughly recommend this book, to Christians and non-Christians alike, as a historical and vivid illustration of the black community in America.
Amazon price: £5.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (4 Oct 2001)
"Nothing but the darkness, and all around them destruction, and before them nothing but the fire - a bastard people, far from God, singing and crying in the wilderness!" First published in 1953, Baldwin's first novel is a short but intense, semi-autobiographical exploration of the troubled life of the Grimes family in Harlem during the Depression.