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Written over a span of ten years, Go Tell it on the Mountain is James Baldwin’s first completed novel. The story follows John Grimes, a bright teen living in Harlem in the 1930s, as he explores relationships with his family and his church. On a basic level, Go Tell it on the Mountain is a coming of age story, yet the novel gains complexity as the omniscient narrator interweaves John’s story with the stories of his mother, father, and aunt. In addition to the Grimes family, a main focus of the text is the function of the Christian Church in the lives of African-Americans, which Baldwin argues to be a source of moral hypocrisy and repression. And with a title like Go Tell it on the Mountain , it is no surprise that the novel contains has many biblical references throughout. The novel is generally accepted as semi-autobiographical. Like the protagonist, Baldwin grew up in Harlem. Neither had a relationship with their biological fathers and both resented their religious fanatic stepfathers. Also like John, Baldwin underwent a religious awakening as a young adult. Go Tell it on the Mountain is ranked 39th on Modern Library’s “100 Best” English-language novels of the 20th century and is also listed on TIME’s “100 Best Novels” (since 1923). In 1984, ABC produced a made-for-television movie based on the novel. -
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