Dangling Man by Saul Bellow

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This is the first novel of Saul Bellow and it talks about the declining lifestyle of Joseph, who believes that a spiritual satisfaction overweighs material perfection. For some reason, I think that this character has a great pride lurching in himself. He denies his slovenly condition of life by claiming that it’s austerity which is the factor that should be valued in our daily life.

What makes the entire situation worse is that Joseph’s brother, Amos is really rich. He always offers unlimited financial support for Joseph and his wife Iva, but Joseph never accepts it, again, due to his obstinate pride. Sometimes I think it won’t be a bad decision to just say “thank you” and accept the money for the simple reason that pride won’t feed you, clothe you, live with you forever. But money fulfills all three circumstances.

My favorite part of this book would actually have to be the fight scene between Joseph and his 15 year old overweening niece Etta. As a wealthy only child, she is undoubtedly spoiled by her parents. She gets whatever she wants. And as a small child, she is used to hearing how poverty has had her dad stricken, but now she is lucky because she doesn’t have to worry about it anymore. This naturally places her in a position to despise poor people, especially if they are her relative, meaning Joseph.

Etta’s disrespect for Joseph was magnified when she called him a “beggar” because Joseph was using her piano without her permission and refused to hand it over to her. In turn, Joseph was riled by this act and beat Etta up. Now, Joseph and Etta have a lot of similarities, not only do they look physically similar, but they both think that they are always right no matter what. One thinks that she is always right because of her rich parents who provide her with boundless support, one thinks that he is alright right because of his spiritual purification.

-Coreen C. 

Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin

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This is yet another deep analysis written by James Baldwin on the issue of racism. But instead of writing from the perspective or setting a black person as its main character, this time the story revolves around a white deputy sheriff.

I was very much touched indeed about the description of the lynching of that black man in a small town where Jesse, the white deputy sheriff lived when he was young. It very much astonished and enraged me to read that Jesse’s father and mother saw the lynching of a human as a fun event instead of the violation of humanity. What saddens me more is the fact that Jesse as a young boy has to witness this brutality despite of his initial reluctance. However later on I realized that deep white superiority as a notion was planted in him which prompted Jesse in his adulthood to abuse African American citizens as well without hesitation or concern. He couldn’t endure black people from challenging white people’s authority, they were the masters, blacks can only be subjects.

Going in a deeper level I view this novel as basically a protest for racism by lending the Jim Crow mentality as an example to demonstrate the fear rooted in white people that black people someday might threaten their positions in the society as the force of dominion. Therefore this burning, castrating, hanging of a black man to death merely was shown as an illustration and a warning to other minorities of what they will suffer if they defy the power of the white people.

-Coreen C. 

Going To Meet The Man by James Balwin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Another Country by James Baldwin

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This novel explores all aspects of maturity, including homosexuality, marriage, death and friendship. Of course at first this book sounded somewhat uncomfortable to me and I really didn’t want to read it. But because over the course of the period I have became the biggest of the James Baldwin I eventually decided to read it at last.

Initially, Rufus Scott is definitely a character that me, or almost everyone can relate with. At one point during our lives, we wonder what really is the point of life or why should we exist on this earth? I get tired of constantly changing faces and hiding my real self as if happiness was only mask on my face, I only peel it off when I go into my room and throw it in the trashcan. Only with Rufus Scott, he goes to the extreme and directly suicides. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s got a family there to support him, or at least half of the family.

Moving on the marriage between Cass and Richard pretty much presents a typical style of American life. One person has an affair, and the marriage breaks. Both people are not excellent parents but they still love their kids in my opinion. This also reflects how parents in real life tend to neglect the real needs of their kids due to their own stress or jobs.

-Coreen C.

Another Country by James Baldwin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

 

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin

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This book would probably be my favorite book written so far by James Baldwin. It is a novel that deals a lot with racism and injustice. Personally, in some point of our life we all feel like we’ve been treated unfairly for no reason and I can relate a lot to this perspective. Whether it’s because of my nationality, skin color, gender, and or even physical appearance in general. Fonny doesn’t deserve to be put into jail because he was falsely accused of rape, but in a society where white people always prevails at that time, a black man couldn’t voice his opinion out freely.

Now Tish on the other hand really touches me a lot, I was deeply moved by her strong sense of love and determination. She didn’t leave Fonny because he was put into jail and even when she was pregnant with his child, she didn’t choose to do abortion. Speaking of the truth, I can’t see any glorious future between a black criminal and a teen mom. But Tish doesn’t seem to agree with me, her family doesn’t have a lot of money and yet they were willing to hire all kinds of lawyers just to accomplish an almost impossible mission-battling against the entire world.

I definitely would recommend this book to people that are having depression or feel like they don’t belong to this harsh world. No worries, this novella will make you know that there are people like you, you are not alone.

-Coreen C. 

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Just Above My Head by James Baldwin

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This is the sixth novel by James Baldwin, and again it is set in Harlem, New York where he grew up in. All of his books can be seen as children inappropriate but to some degree, I am just so engrossed in the realism aspect of these novels that I can’t seem to stop myself from checking out another one from the library. I actually really revered in the brotherhood of Hall and Arthur Montana. However, the character that made the most impression on me would certainly be Julia.

She was a child preacher from the age of eight and has since been a very devout Christian. Her parents always took huge pride in her which is also the reason why her brother hates her because she has all the attention of their parents. Gospel hymn quotations kind of adds a lyrical sense to the novel and thus suggests the fact that music has played a large part of the African American experience and life.

I know Julia did not want to be a preacher by heart or even believe in Christianity. However, she was a very filial girl and therefore would do anything to make her parents happy. By way of contrast when her mother passed away eventually due to health issues and his brother was sent away to her grandma because his father couldn’t endure him, Julia notices signs of degradation in her father. Which eventually, led to sexual assault and she was raped by her own father. Not only in the novel did I notice the main focus isn’t on racism anymore, but it just so much struck me when Baldwin employs a very vivid and strong way to protest against sexual abuse, a very morbid form when it was done by a father to his own daughter.

-Coreen C. 

Just Above My Head by James Baldwin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin

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This is another semi-autographical novel which makes it itself another classic and the first major work Baldwin has written. For one thing, I feel like a lot of children should be able to sympathize with John Grimes: we all wish and hanker to be our parents’ favorite child. We take care of our younger siblings because we want our parents to feel proud of us. But then a lot of times life treats us as unequally as how it treats John Grimes, his father abuses him because he wasn’t of his blood, but merely the child between his mother Elizabeth and another man he doesn’t know.

And then there is Gabriel’s sister Florence. In my opinion, she really hates her little brother again because of how unfairly their mother treated her. This religious woman, although strict toward her son, made Florence do everything and even denied her of her education. Sexism forced Florence to leave home and doubt religion altogether with the existence and faith in God because such a sinful man like Gabriel could become a preacher.

My two favorite characters: John and Florence both serve as the centers of the theme of injustice. They didn’t do anything wrong or egregious for their parents to hate them, but one because of her gender, the other of his blood denied them of any attention and love they could possibly get which really saddens me a lot according to the descriptions they were given in the book. Since this is semi-autobiographical I am surmising here that the author James Baldwin probably was not the favorite child either if not the least favorite child liked by his parents with eight siblings.

-Coreen C. 

Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

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Another masterpiece written by African American author James Baldwin revolving around the theme of homosexuality and bisexuality. At first I was really abashed by the outright description of the characters and the erotic actions they commit, but then I realized that here the message James Baldwin wanted to convey was the high sense of reality our world and society currently needs but avoids for most of the time.

This novel attempted to tell us that not all people are the same. Especially for those homosexual people, it is a stab in the heart when they realized their sexual preference and will face the problem of confiding and admitting this fact to their friends and family, which at the same time they have to prepare against any antagonism from any outside forces. They will be condemned for their difference, but that won’t stunt them from pursuing their passion and maintaining faith in themselves.

Hella and David loved each other. However, when Hella was away David falls in deep love with Giovanni and he returns this love. But then Hella comes back, and David numbs his true feelings but telling himself that he mustn’t leave Hella, which resulted in the loss and imprisonment of Giovanni. Nevertheless, Hella and David break apart at last and David can no longer reunite with Giovanni anymore as a criminal who will be sentenced to death for murder. This taught me a lesson-never deny your real identity and embrace it, for later on right after your denouncement of yourself you will never be YOU again, but merely a wandering soul residing in a live corpse sharing the same name.

-Coreen C. 

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library