James Baldwin

James-Baldwin-New-Orleans-1963So, if you and I have had an actual face to face conversation in the last few months, you might know that I’m reading the works of James Baldwin right now. I started with Another Country, then Go Tell it on the Mountain, then most recently, Giovanni’s Room.

I think he’s amazing. He wrote honestly and bravely about race and religion and homosexuality in the 50’s and 60’s, when barely anyone was writing about even one of those themes and he was writing about all three. There is so much tension in his novels and yet, the villain on page 43 is the person you’re most invested in on page 44. He understood that yin and yang of human behavior.

One of his most difficult characters is the father in Go Tell it on the Mountain, who was based on his own father. Not long ago, I watched an interview with Baldwin where he described his father this way: “He could not bend, he could only be broken.” I’ve carried that thought with me for a few days now, so I thought I would share it with you.

Baldwin grew up in a conservative church environment. He did not consider himself to be religious in his adulthood, but that Faith of his youth kept a hold on him his entire life. I’ve posted another, short youtube video of him singing “Precious Lord, take my Hand.” He had a beautiful voice. A beautiful voice in every way.

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