This memoir type writing was published in 1953 and is the story
of a fourteen year old boy, John, and his family in Harlem.
It’s on the College Bound Reading List from Rock County, Wisconsin
and I had never read it. Check!
John’s family is poor and the emphasis is on the local church where
his father is a part-time preacher. The book is written in large chunks
which, through flashbacks, open up our knowledge of these people and
Baldwin leads us through by withholding information about
the characters—revealing major insights gradually. This enhances
the reading interest.
The action is often violent and cruel and one sees the importance of
the church as nurturer in their lives. I especially liked the snippets of
favorite hymns sung at the church services.
“Lord, hold my hand while I run this race!”
“Lord, I’m traveling, Lord,
I got on my traveling shoes.”
“Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone,
And there’s a cross for me.”
This is a short novel about one day in the life of young John,
but with the flashbacks several generations are covered. The
material is familiar to us now, after all this time–but this was
maybe the first time it was documented–a fresh look at the
black family at the time. Considered a classic.
Two button review.