Go Tell It On The Mountain: James Baldwin

Go Tell It On The Mountain is a very bold book. In an era when "Ebonics" had not been coined yet, when being black was not every white kids style, James Baldwin stayed so true to the African-American colloquialism. James Baldwin has written with complete truthfulness and self-questioning this parable of finding yourself, finding your belief, finding your God. Are these even different things, or is it one? It is this honesty which keeps you engrossed. Whether you'll end up loving this book or not probably depends on your personal equation with the Supreme Being, but what you will definitely admire and carry forward is his honesty, honesty about the lives of African-Americans, honesty which is also echoed in the language.

Go Tell It On the Mountain is a biblical story of a youth dealing with his personal demons with regards to religion at an age where sin has not manifested itself in any form whatsoever in him. John finds himself in the difficult position of questioning his faith. John's mental turmoil in separating the men of god from god itself and paving a religious path for himself is very touching. This mirroring of thoughts which are timeless in nature, pulls you into the story. You find yourself questioning along with John, praying along with his mother Elizabeth and feeling betrayed by his father Gabriel.

James Baldwin delves into each characters personal quest to achieve a place next to God. He frankly describes the African-American homes, the depth to which they are influenced by Christianity. So much so that at times you find it disconcerting. The two-facedness, the fake righteousness of the sanctified men makes you cringe with discomfort, followed by skepticism. Which is why, when John ends up being saved, I felt deceived. What brings about John's confirmation to the faith? Is it the hope to be freed from suffering that is passed on to him from generations? Is it to assuage the curiously skirted guilt of homosexuality? Could it have to do with the evangelist nature of African-American church services, where the charged up atmosphere, the childhood influences, the trance-like energy which may make one forget all inhibitions, insecurities and embrace that which is core to one and all, an eagerness to believe.

That this is a story of a different era is not to be forgotten. The depth to which James Baldwin writes about the African-American psyche, their hope in being freed from their suffering, their expectant belief in their faith, gives you reason to half-heartedly agree to the biblical end to the story.

This book, makes me curious of the role that guilt, fear and a hope for change, plays in bringing people closer to their god. Yes, signs of a true skeptic, but maybe in one of my trance-like states caused by certain unmentionable substances that might change and make me a believer.


Nysa said...

Interesting to know.

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