Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone by James Baldwin

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This book, like many other of Baldwin’s novels, includes many scenes of bisexuality and racism. Barbara and Leo Proudhammer stick together like a pack of gum, I can feel Barbara’s oppression of his love for Leo because one he is black, so this white woman under societal pressure backed up and could only watch Leo from a dark corner. However, it wasn’t long before Leo also steps in and the two crossed the line: and failed. Both eventually returned to their positions as friend and from that on I wouldn’t say the amorous aspect of their love for each other just vanished, but the two characters did an awesome job of suppressing it.

My favorite character in this book would actually be Caleb, Leo’s brother who is a World War II vet. He was falsely imprisoned when he was a young man, but through his faith in Christianity, he was able to release his grudge for white people. Now, in most books religion occupy a huge chunk of Baldwin’s plot, but usually in a negative way as he always seems to question or deny the positive influence of religion and denounce it. But in this book perhaps Caleb is the first character who actually was able to eradicate his sense of racial discrimination through the divine guidance of God. Nonetheless, though, Christianity also Caleb very orthodox and traditional. He didn’t like Leo being an actor and constantly rebukes him for being an atheist. This implies a theme of maturity because before Caleb was arrested he was a very promiscuous and frivolous person.

The reason I love Caleb is not because of his devoutness in Christianity but that his love for Leo, his little brother. It may not be conveyed in the best way, but he tries his best to create an atmosphere of family for Leo which is very heart-warming.

-Coreen C. 

Tell Me How Long The Train’s Been Gone by James Baldwin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

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