The first James Baldwin novel I read was Giovanni’s Room and I really enjoyed it. I marveled over his ability to write a novel with so many layered themes. I also was wondering why it had taken me so long to finally read one of his novels.
I notice that this is often the first novel that readers online seem to flock to by Baldwin and then they don’t pick anything else up by him and if they do they’ll read The Fire Next Time but not any of his other novels. So my recommendation today is Another Country. This is hands down my favorite Baldwin novel so far. It is a must read. However, I haven’t got to Just Above My Head yet, but it’s on my 2020 TBR list.
Another Country is a story that is beautifully written and full of complexity. It’s starts innocently but slowly the story confronts the reader with the difficulties for blacks and whites to coexist. The themes of white liberalism and sexual freedom are both prevalent subjects as well today. Another Country will make readers contemplate current and past US race relations. You’ll definitely want to speak to someone about it once you’re done. It would be great for a book club discussion. I recommend Another Country to readers who enjoy Baldwin’s writing, like reading books with heavy themes on race relations in the US, and enjoy reading books set in 1950s New York. Check out my review video below.
“Set in Greenwich Village, Harlem, and France, among other locales, Another Country is a novel of passions–sexual, racial, political, artistic–that is stunning for its emotional intensity and haunting sensuality, depicting men and women, blacks and whites, stripped of their masks of gender and race by love and hatred at the most elemental and sublime. In a small set of friends, Baldwin imbues the best and worst intentions of liberal America in the early 1970s.” (Another Country, back cover)
Another Country – James Baldwin
Publisher: Penguin Classics
My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!
I used to run my hands along the books on the wooden bookshelves that were in the hall upstairs in my home. It contained a myriad of first edition African-American novels from Frederick Douglas to Malcolm X. Growing up I was particularly intrigued by the title Giovanni’s Room. I wondered what the story could be about. I remember reading the back cover but still not being so sure. I always heard my mother and especially my uncle persuasively explaining to me the importance of James Baldwin’s works, emphasizing Another Country (my favorite so far), Going to Meet the Man, and Go Tell it on the Mountain. I grew up having these titles in mind but Giovanni’s Room, for some reason, was always in the forefront, probably because it was the first book of his that I held in my hands.
Sadly it has taken me forty years to read one of Baldwin’s novels. I read lots of African-American authors at college for my major but Baldwin surprisingly never came up. Four years ago, I read and thoroughly enjoyed If Beale Street could Talk. The year after I read Giovanni’s Room. I’m so glad I finally got to the book that perked my interest at such a young age because of the title alone. I followed up by reading Another Country and The Fire Next Time. Both are incredible literary works that everybody should read before they die. I still have more to discover by Baldwin.
So I guess you’re wondering why I’m writing about my reading discovery of James Baldwin. Well I thought I’d let you all in on a reading project that one of my Booktube buddies, Denise D. Cooper ArtBooks Life (Awesome creative Booktuber go check her out!) will be doing next year. It’s called The Blackout for Books 2018. She’ll be reading books by African-American authors for twelve months. The rules are the following:
- Only read African-American writers
- Read 1 independent writer each month
- Read 2 African-American Women Writers each month
It’s as easy as that. I commend her for this and I’ll be joining her for January, February, and March of 2018. I can’t wait. It would be great if you all could join in too for any amount of time you’d like. So, now you know a bit more about why I started this post talking about James Baldwin. I’ll punctually be writing posts about some of my favorite African-American writers and about those that I haven’t read yet but are looking forward to read in preparation for this reading challenge. This will give you some ideas if you aren’t sure what you’d like to read. If you decide to participate, don’t forget to link your comments with #the blackoutforbooks2018 everywhere. Let me know below what you think about this reading challenge and if you’re interested in joining in. Happy reading y’all!
Day 22 – Set Where You Live:
I had to choose two novels for today’s theme – one that I read and loved and one that I can’t wait to read. Well if you’ve followed me on here for a while you know that I read and loved Giovanni’s Room which I picked up last year. I don’t know how I managed to get my BA in English Literature without having to read the illustrious James Baldwin. There is something seriously wrong with that. Reading Giovanni’s Room last year opened the flood gates to Baldwin’s brilliant mix of adept writing style and pertinent social commentary. What’s so amazing is how modern and relevant his work has remained. This is as good a place as any to begin reading Baldwin. It’s a short novel of only 159 pages and chock full of layers of meaning on all levels. If you decide to read the Penguin Modern Classics edition there is a very informative introduction written by Caryl Phillips that I suggest you check out after reading the book.
The second book I’m suggesting is Black Girl in Paris by Shay Youngblood. She is a well-known contemporary African-American writer of novels, short stories, and plays. She’s been published in numerous magazines and spent some time abroad in Peace Corps and in Paris as an au pair. I hope to really make an effort to read this one this year because I’d say it could almost be a modern classic when I hear people talk about it.
“Any writer who makes a writer the protagonist of a novel is just asking for trouble. If the protagonist in question is a young African-American woman in Paris, following in the footsteps of such well-known black expatriates as Langston Hughes, Josephine Baker, and James Baldwin, it’s double jeopardy. And yet in Black Girl in Paris, Shay Youngblood manages to avoid clichés even as she steers a course straight through them.”(Black Girl in Paris, Goodreads description)