Originally published in 1953, Go Tell It on the MountainÂ was Baldwinâs first major work. With a potent combination of lyrical compassion and resonant rage, he portrays a fourteen-year-old boy questioning the terms of his identity. John Grimes is the stepson of a fire-breathing and abusive Pentecostal preacher in Harlem during the Depression. The action of this short novel spans a single day in Johnâs life, and yet manages to encompass on an epic scale his familyâs troubled past and his own inchoate longings for the future, set against a shining vision of a city where he both does and does not belong. Baldwinâs story illuminates the racism his characters face as well as the double-edged role religion plays in their lives, both oppressive and inspirational. In prose that mingles gritty vernacular cadences with exalted biblical rhythms, Baldwinâs rendering of his young protagonistâs struggle to invent himself pioneered new possibilities in American language and literature.Â
Introduction by Edwidge Danticat
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