There was a point in my life when I thought that past a certain age, I’d have it all figured out. At least the “big” stuff. The job, the personality, the social circle (or lack thereof), and the ambition.
Because then, once the dust settles, the blank canvas would have some boundaries, here and there strokes of color, the entirety of a portrait that not too long ago was poked and scrutinized by others. So that past a certain age, I have that portrait of myself, that totality of my being – you can call it my shadow, my shield, or my ghost.
It’s because of books like Baldwin’s Go Tell It On The Mountain that the colors that were once so vivid have now completely evaporated. Because the thing is that the moment I let a part of my being harden on that canvas, let those colors dry up forever, erasing it would be just as painful. And to believe that I can be just one thing, possess one definition, the light of my existence goes out.
Go Tell It On the Mountain is a book about self-discovery and individuality. In terms of length, it’s a short read. But in terms of depth, it’s quite intense.
James Baldwin reflects on the stubbornness of being oneself. The stirrings of a soul to live despite what one inherits in culture, in society, and in the world. It touches upon many topics – religion, race, and family.
The most vivid of all are the descriptions of people. Reading about the violence and misogyny in the name of dogmatic beliefs is difficult, I must point out. It’s terrifying because this is James Baldwin’s semi-autobiographical novel. And it highlights love, hate, loss, and gain. It reclaims suffering and heartbreak for those who are not equipped to face it.
The thing about James Baldwin is that he translates the untranslatable. His writing is swift, poetic, and emotionally penetrating. His vivid prose remembers the horrors of inequality and harrowing scales of organized religion. You read it once and it demands to be felt forever.