James Baldwin is one of the most important authors of our time. He wrote a lot of important essays, short stories, novels, plays, and poems during his 63 years on this earth. During the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, Baldwin was coming to terms with who he was. He used his unique perspective and lyrical writing to talk about race, homosexuality, and religion in a way that was ahead of his time when it came to social commentary.
From Go Tell It on the Mountain to Giovanni’s Room and If Beale Street Could Talk, which was made into a movie in 2019, we’ve put together some of Baldwin’s most popular works. All of them are still important to read today. Because we also have a complete list of his work, so don’t worry. They’re all good.
Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953)
As a teenager in 1930s Harlem, John Grimes has a hard time finding his own identity as the stepson of a strict Pentecostal minister. In his first novel, Baldwin wrote about John Grimes, who has a hard time finding his own identity as the stepson of the strict minister. They both were raised by stepfathers who worked as Baptist pastors, and the story is very similar to Baldwin’s own life story. “If he ever wrote another book, “Mountain” was the one he had to write. “I had to deal with the things that hurt the most. I had to deal with my father the most.”
Notes of a Native Son(1955)
In this collection of essays, the writer tried to show how difficult it was to be Black in the United States in the 1950s. Baldwin both complained about the injustices in the African American community and showed empathy for the people who were being oppressed. This made him a key figure in the movement. It was in the New York Times in 1958 when Langston Hughes said this about Baldwin’s words: “We should have our own major commentator now.”
Giovanni’s Room is one of the most important books in American literature. It tells the story of an American man living in Paris who is having an affair with an Italian bartender named Giovanni. In 1957, the book was a finalist for the National Book Awards’ fiction category. It is widely thought to be important reading for people in the LGBTQ community.
Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes From a Native Son(1961)
Baldwin has written another 23 culturally reflective essays that show how difficult it is to deal with discrimination in our society. His words are still as powerful and relevant today as they were when he wrote them. The following is a selection of some of Baldwin’s new and revised works. Many of the titles first appeared in Esquire and the New York Times Magazine. Another place in the finals for the National Book Awards in 1962, this time for nonfiction.
During the 1950s, Another Country is set in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The story follows the lives of a group of friends in the wake of a suicide, and it talks about mental health, love, and bisexuality.
As soon as the book came out, many people had mixed feelings about it. Paul Goodman for the New York Times said that while the story was “personal, sinuous, yet definite,” it could also be “strained [and] sometimes journalistic or noisy.” He did, however, say that his harsher review was because of Baldwin’s previous work, which led to a higher standard of review.
The Fire Next Time(1963)
New Yorker essays “My Dungeon Shook: Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation” and “Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region of My Mind” make up The Fire Next Time. Baldwin talks about both race and racism in society, and he also criticizes Christianity’s role in American beliefs. People who were writing about this collection at the time thought that white people could finally see what it was like for Black people in this country.
Going to Meet the Man(1965)
In this book, eight short stories are told by different characters, like a jazz musician who can’t make it, an angry father, and a racist cop. Sonny’s Blues, This Morning, This Evening, So Soon, and The Man Child are some of the most popular songs.
Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone(1968)
The famous actor Leo Proudhammer almost dies when he has a heart attack on stage. This is a story by Baldwin. Throughout the rest of the book, he thinks about the events in his life, both those that led him to fame and those that showed him to be weak.
If Beale Street Could Talk (1974)
Now, a film directed by Barry Jenkins called If Beale Street Could Talk is in the running for a Golden Globe. The film follows young couple Fonny and Tish as they deal with the trial and jailing of Fonny, who is accused of rape. They play the main characters in the big-screen version. Stephan James and Kiki Layne are both rising stars. When he was talking to The Atlantic about why he decided to make the movie, Jenkins said, “It was because I thought it would be a good idea to make a movie out of this story. I thought it would “Baldwin had a lot of different voices that he used to write. One of those voices was very sensual, and it was very easy for him to write about human emotions. Because this book has a lot of essays about protest and a lot of love and sensuality, I think it’s the perfect mix.”
I Am Not Your Negro(2017)
When Baldwin was still alive, he thought about writing a book about his friends Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers, but he didn’t finish it until after his death. Raul Peck combined an unpublished manuscript called Remember This House with different parts of Baldwin’s book, notes, interviews, and letters to make the story that the literary great didn’t get to see come to life, but now you can read it. He also made a documentary about the same subject that was nominated for an Oscar in 2017.